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April 2005

Best Ranger 2005


Best Ranger Competitors get ready for an Airborne Assault as part of the competition (Benning Photo).

The 22nd Annual Best Ranger Competition closed yesterday.  The Army Chief of Staff, General Peter Schoomaker, awarded the winners - Capt. Corbett McCallum and Sgt. 1st Class Gerald Nelson - the Order of Saint Maurice and Colt 45 pistols.

What is the Best Ranger Competition?

Last year, I posted a review of the competition (complete with events).

This year, twenty three 2-man Ranger Teams began the competition on Friday.  Eleven finished Sunday.  The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has a nice series of articles about the events:

And the Army has a story about the awards ceremony.  Hopefully, ESPN will broadcast the competition soon.

The New York Times, the Marines, and Counter Column

In case you haven't seen the New York Times story about the Marines (2/4) in Iraq, here's the opening passage:

Bloodied Marines Sound Off About Want of Armor and Men

Published: April 25, 2005
On May 29, 2004, a station wagon that Iraqi insurgents had packed with C-4 explosives blew up on a highway in Ramadi, killing four American marines who died for lack of a few inches of steel.

The four were returning to camp in an unarmored Humvee that their unit had rigged with scrap metal, but the makeshift shields rose only as high as their shoulders, photographs of the Humvee show, and the shrapnel from the bomb shot over the top...

Now, I've gotten a lot of email about this article.  Some are asking for an opinion, and a few are asking if I'm still optimistic and idealistic about the War on Terror.

Glenn D. sent me an email where he basically accuses the NY Times of rehasing old problems that have been solved (Glenn wrote "mostly remedied") in order to support the "we will fail" mantra of the Main Stream Media.

I agree.  But I also think that the Marine leadership could have done better.  However, I could point that out about any unit in theater (or any unit that I commanded).  Leaders don't stop working, improving, pushing the limits.  There is no finish line.  And the article insinuates a problem between the Company and the Battalion - two company commanders were relieved.  One days before departing the US for Kuwait and the other days before heading home.

Perhaps there's other options for the guys in theater.  Some of you were asked to help provide kevlar blankets for humvees for a National Guard unit.  We had four blankets (at about a grand per blanket) in less than two days.

But even if you had the kevlar blankets, the Soldier or Marine in the humvee turret is exposed.

I also believe that the tempo of attacks increased in April (before the Marines hit Fallujah the second time).  This had something to do with the increase in casualties (for everyone).

If you want a response to the New York Times article, you can't do better than someone from the unit that handed the territory (and their equipment) to the 2/4 Marines...Jason Van Steenwyk of Counter Column.

He responds (as usual for him) very articulately.

The Marines in Company E

American Heroes Tribute

Gabe at the Great Satan has a post about the new efforts by American Heroes Tribute.

Be sure to check Gabe's post because he took a picture of the first banner put up by AHT.  I recognized the picture immediately.

It's Zach Wobler.

That's just One. Hundred. Percent. Kickass.  Thanks, Gabe, for getting that picture.


[Speaking of Staff Sergeant Zach Wobbler - you can sign a guestbook for his family here.  Please do so.]


    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.
    - fourth stanza of the Ode (For the Fallen)

Jonathon E. reminds me that today is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand.

ANZAC is the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the formation created in December 1914 by grouping the Australian Imperial Force and New Zealand Expeditionary Force.  I believe the last time there was an ANZAC force in combat was Viet Nam.

Our friends in Australia and New Zealand remember their fallen warriors on April 25th.  Commemorative services are held at dawn which was the time of the Gallipoli Landing - the first engagement of the Australian and New Zealand forces (sort of a "Stand To") .  And solumn ceremonies start with veterans marching to their memorials (local or otherwise), laying wreaths, recitations of the Ode, and a lot of other traditional ceremonies and activities.

Tennessee Guardsmen In Iraq - Pictures of the Week

Here are some pictures of the Tennessee National Guard's 278th Regiment Combat Team patrolling along the Iranian border and spending what little time off they have with Charlie Daniels.  All photos were taken by Sergeant Matthew Acosta (You can click on the thumbnails for larger versions of the pictures.)


Tennessee National Guardsman 1st Lt. Richard Tackett, platoon leader, 1st Squadron, 278th Regimental Combat Team, Task Force Liberty, searches a crevass pathway illegially used as a trade route for black market goods and for insurgent cacheing weapons.


Cavalry Scouts of 1st Squadron, 278th Regimental Combat Team,Tennessee National Guard, Task Force Liberty, patrol the cliffs near the Iranian border, in Iraq, looking for illegal border crossers and weapons caches. Tons of ordinance were abandon after the war with Iran and has been a source of explosives for bomb making insurgents.


Tennessee National Guardsman Sgt. 1st Class Joel Gibbons, Cavalry Scout platoon Sgt., 1st Squadron, 278th Regimental Combat Team, Task Force Liberty, stands guard while an Iraqi child passes information of a weapons cache found near the Iranian border to the commander of the unit, Capt James Hite. Tons of ordinance were abandon after the war with Iran and has been a source of explosives for bomb making insurgents.


Soldiers of the Tennessee National Guard stationed at forward operating base Caldwell, in Iraq, gathered together for a concert by the Charlie Daniels Band. The band play for almost an hour as the crowd sang along, and also played its well-known hit (Devil went down to Georgia.)
Charlie Daniels personally thanked the troops for serving the in the United States Armed Forces and for the sacrifices they have made.
After the concert, the band provided band photos and signed autographs.
The band has been touring various military installations in several countries in the areas of operation, here in the Middle East, to include Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Iraq.

Lebanon Matters

Michael J. Totten, blogging from Lebanon, has a great post about Why Lebanon Matters:

Lebanon may be the only place in the world where you can buy a necklace with a Christian cross and a Muslim crescent moon fused together as one. What other country would even think of making something like this? I've never seen one before. But now I own two...

How To Earn The Navy Cross - Sgt. Willie Copeland - Someone You Should Know

Here's a story via Seamus about courage.

Camp Pendleton Marine receives Navy Cross for heroism in Iraq
By Seth Hettena
3:48 p.m. April 21, 2005

Associated Press
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Richard Greco, right, awards the Navy Cross to Marine Corps Sgt. Willie Copeland, left, during a ceremony at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base on Thursday.

CAMP PENDLETON – When his platoon was ambushed in an attack by insurgents in Iraq last year, Marine Sgt. Willie L. Copeland III took charge.

He led five Marines out of the heaviest fire, found cover and killed 10 of the enemy in close combat. When his commanding officer fell wounded, Copeland used his body to shield the officer as he administered first aid.

For his leadership and dedication to duty, the 26-year-old from Utah on Thursday received the Navy Cross, the Navy's second-highest honor. Seven Marines have received the Navy Cross for Operation Iraqi Freedom through Jan. 10, according to the latest figures from the Marine Corps Awards Branch.

The attack killed one Marine and wounded several others, including Cpl. James Wright, who lost both his hands and was awarded the Bronze Star last year.

Copeland said he was embarrassed by the attention and explained that he was doing only what every Marine would do...

By the way, you've probably seen Corporal Wright before (click on the thumbnail for larger version).


Marine Cpl. James Wright, who received the Bronze Star Medal with valor device from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, salutes during the national anthem at the June 1 presentation ceremony in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. Wright lost both hands and suffered severe damage to his leg when his vehicle was struck by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq's Anbar province. Despite his wounds, Wright continued to lead the Marines in his charge. Photo by Cpl. Richard Stephens, USMC

Operation Open Arms

My wife's late grandfather was a fishing charter Captain out of Fish Tales Marina on Estero Island of Fort Myers Beach, Florida.  He was also a tail gunner on Naval aircraft in the Pacific in WWII.  He would like this idea:

Man strives to give area troops warm welcome

By JENNIFER BOOTH REED [email protected]

Published by news-press.com April 23, 2005

A chance meeting between a soldier on leave and a fishing guide has blossomed into a community effort to send off troops and welcome them home with gusto.

On Sunday, U.S. Army Spc. Travis Downes, on a two-week leave from Iraq, met Pine Island fishing guide Capt. John "GiddyUp" Bunch. Bunch and Downes' mother are friends. Downes mentioned how much he'd love to go fishing. So Bunch took him on a free chartered fishing trip, worth $495.

The excursion sparked an idea....

Read the story and here's the web site for Operation Open Arms.