The following is the second letter (link to the first letter - Don't Count the Days) from Marine Sergeant Kevin who is in charge of several sniper teams in Iraq. In fact, his teams have been fighting Sadr's thugs around the Najaf cemetary and mosque. Here's his notes (I did remove some personal information about his family) about what it's really like fighting as a Marine Sniper.
Family and Friends,
First, I want to say that My Marines and I are safe! The power of prayer is amazing!
Several days worth of fighting, negotiating, planning, and peace talks came down to three days of intense fighting around the Mosque. Several days prior to the 25th we were ready to go......on standby........tonight's the night........stand down. (you get my point!).
The early morning of the 25th my platoon was attached to Alpha Compnay, ¼ to support the fight in Najaf. 1/4 sniper platoon was supporting Charlie Company with Special Forces. Charlie Company was to advance first and establish a foothold east of the Mosque. Once they had done this, Alpha Company was to advance and establish a foothold northwest of the mosque. With 1/5 and 2/7 surrounding the mosque from the south and north.
At 2300 Charlie company begins their movement with Tracks! At this point we are getting ready at FOB Baker with A Co. by the time we get settled in (we are O/O for movement) we get the call......get your [email protected]#$... the tracks are on their way to pick us up. Charlie Company had little resistance, but Tanks are taking heavy fire (enemy is rolling IED's down the street in barrel's at the Tanks). Within 20 minutes the entire company is loaded up in Tracks ready to go! (Did tell ya that Murphy lives on my shoulder? As we were loading the tracks, we were to load in the last tack, Number 8. Number 8 went down right there in front of me! Damn! I have 16 people, and now I have to spread load my Marines. A very uneasy feeling. I keep the majority in one track and I take myself and a team and we get into another track.
At, this point I will not lie. As we moved toward our objective in the back of the tracks, I thought to myself, "This is it". I prayed for the safety of all the Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors and our families and I even prayed for the ENEMY, for what was coming their way I would not want to be on the receiving end of!
We stopped at our consolidation point and within minutes we took Mortars. They had the placed pegged. While we waited you could hear the fighting going on at the Objective. We got the word, and in we went. Tracks picked up their pace and they menuvered quickly. The entire time I am thinking to myself.....I hope they drop us off at the right spot, but if they don't how can I link up with my teams? Hell, at this point I thought we have a plan go with it and hope for the best. I was the last one on and the first one off.
As the ramp dropped I could hear the weapons being fired all over........I get off and I see that we are on the street (phase line corvette) by the cemetery (the right spot!) We take cover along side the street and you can see the remains of the prep that arty and air had done in the days prior of fighting. It takes several minutes and my platoon is finally together.
The Marines start clearing the bldgs. Once they are done we move in to take up positions. I attached myself and a team with 3rd plt, and 1st team with wpns, 2nd team with 1st plt. All three taking up different bldgs north of the Mosque. As soon as we get into the bldg we start taking fire from the south. Fighting starts at the top of the bldg, we cannot move to the top because it is still not clear. Then we take our first KIA, A marine is shot in the head from a bldg between us and wpns? Finally we get the go ahead and establish two poistions south/north. We literally fight until sunlight. I found a small (what looked like a closet) room for a hide over looking the cemetery. Myself and my spotter were cramped into this spot for two days.
Because once the sun came up.....The enemy snipers had our position dialed on! No kidding, I give these guys respect (and you do when they start shooting through walls at Marines) It is a MOUNT Environment and you try and record the shot, but with the adjacent bldgs the sound gets thrown around and it is hard to tell where he is shooting from (this is good if you are the shooter!) They were not using the tops of the roofs (totally different from Fallujah) they were set up just like us! Inside the bldg shooting through loopholes. However, we had three snipers shooting at us all day and it took several hours to find and record their position. Once we did, we called AIR strikes and leveled the bldg! By the end of the day we did not have sniper fire on our position.
The night came and weapons were being fired all day to the point you tuned it out, unless it was specific to your location. Like an RPG being fired at your location or a mortar round hiting your bldg. The next morning as the sun came up Machgun fire came into our bldg. My little room became my fighting hole and sucking the deck was normal. The entire time I was hoping someone would be stupid and raise there head, it did not happen that day.
Same thing starting off the day two. I get word that one of my teams took heavy fire and they medivaced one of my Marines?? My youngest Marine (19) took a hit in their bldg and knocked him out and broke some ribs. He would be ok but his team leader saved his life by being aware of weapons systems being fired at them. By day three we had one KIA and 14 WIA. We had leveled several bldgs and had the mosque surrounded.
Day three we moved to another bldg and it gave us a better field of view. We could see the outside entrance to the mosque and several people around it. However, they put us in a cease fire??? During this time we saw enemy militia carring mortar tubes and RPG's to a position. We requested to fire, but was told to stand down??? Several minutes later we were all sucking the deck when an RPG (likely the one we saw) and Machine Gun fire ripped through our bldg. Our Machine Gunner was ready and got the guy shooting the RPG.
Night came and silence for the first time. By morning little fire but they called a cease fire and arranged for the militia to move out and turn over the mosque to the people. By noon we were pulled out and south two blocks from the mosque at an intersection watching the people who we had fought for three weeks leave and the Iraqi National Guard rolling in like they did all the work themselves!
I am thankful to be back with my Marines and to have only have minimal casualties for the entire fighting. We will leave the fighting to the Najaf people.
I tried to shed light on the event's that took place but it is hard to do in a short time on a computer. Overall, we did our job well. We surrounded the Mosque, the people got it back and we are now leaving to go back to our base.
Alpha Company Gunny told me, "Your reservist right"? Yeah! "You guys don't act like it. You fought well and you’re better than our sniper platoon!”
The Marines were proud to hear that. He also wanted to put one of my Marines in for an Award. My Doc, took care of the KIA and did a wonderful job (he is a EMT back in Chicago).
The prayers were answered and we are coming home.
To everyone who has responded and give their support......I thank you and the Marines thank you. It's not over yet, so I will leave it at that.
Continue to pray until we hit deck in the states [Blackfive note: Kevin’s snipers are scheduled to arrive in California on October 4th – lock up your daughters and tap the kegs]. Then continue for the ones who are still here!!!!