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May 2005

Senior Marine Officer - Operations New Market and Mongoose

Below is an email via Seamus from a Senior Marine Officer involved in several Operations in Iraq.  It touches on many things - what's really happening, the media's portrayal of our forces, etc. 

Vocabularly:  MSR is a Main Supply Route (ie Major route into and out of an area).
BN is Battalion.  RCT is a Regimental Combat Team.


By now you've all seen the oft-repeated footage of the fires in Haditha under the header of our 'new offensive' Operation New Market. Figured it was about time for an update...

First "NEW MARKET." As the press is reporting, we commenced operations a few days ago in the Haditha area - a critical crossroads from west to east in the country. At Haditha the MSRs meet and provide high-speed asphalt North towards Mosul and east towards Baghdad. It is a fair size city, often referred to by locals as the 'capital of west Al Anbar province (Ramadi being the provincial capital). Some of you might remember that about 3-4 weeks ago, insurgents took the Haditha hospital and burnt it when Marines came in and took it from them -- that's the fire footage you keep seeing (The press forgets that we took that hospital back then; instead, they only remembered that we lost a few Marines there in the initial ambush - not this time however).

Over the past few months, following our 1stMARDIVs magnificent actions in Fallujah (Operation AL FAJR) we have seen elements of the insurgency scatter along the 'green belt' of the Euphrates. Because of the strategic crossroads aspects, Haditha has been a problem. Following Matador, a lot of good intel had been developed on the insurgent 'underground railroad' moving to key cities. Intel, particularly in the counterinsurgency ops (COIN) as you know drives the operations -- operations develops more Intel - and we get the 'perfect circle' that lets us continue aggressive action...see we did learn from our VN-veteran Marines!! Remember, I started this journey in '73 so all y'all were the guys that taught me how to do this -- I owe ya!

We planned a series of operations in the west -- not unusual - to exploit information gained in previous operations and from some great atmospherics from the local(s) who are, as we are, fed up with terrorists using their villages, recruiting their young, etc...Essentially, each battalion assessed their respective battlespace and, as Marine BNs have done forever, planned operations to close with...

We kicked both 3/25 (New Market) and 3/2 (Mongoose) operations off. Ironically, as we were discussing embeds (reporters) the other day – what makes one news is the ability of the embed to get the story out - that is the real insider view of New Market. It is a BATTALION operation – a series of Cordon and Search/Knocks that, found some bad guys early and hit them hard. We continued doing firm bases (kinda a kinder gentler name for COMBAT BASE or COMPANY FIRE BASES) and work through the night to whack on identified and located enemy. No shock to any of you, 1st Force had their own target sets and with its sniper and Direct Action capability has had great success in their missions – nothing here out of the ordinary -- it's how Marines do business. Bottom line is that, while we appreciate the attention, we can't explain why we're getting all this press for a 'regular' operation -- maybe Harry Truman was right about the 'best PA machine since Stalin. My personal opinion is that with all the 'reactive' actions around the major cities - the sensing the enemy has somehow gotten more powerful or aggressive -- maybe the press is fascinated by the fact that the Marines take the fight TO the enemy and make them the ones paying!!!

Wish we could claim credit for this but, we are building on 1st Divisions initiatives and foundation and, as Marines, if we know (or find out) where the bad guy is, you don't have to kick us in the ass to get us to go and kill them...THAT is one things we are still awfully good at!!!

Would like to bring you up to date on the rest of our units ---

RCT-8 that works around FALLUJAH is continuing to discover innumerable caches and, as recently reported, underground command structures. They have expanded to the surrounding cities of Fallujah (places the bad guys went to ground) and are the principals for training, integrating and operating with our ever-growing Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). We have some great units and a RECON Bn down there that have been pushing the enemy hard and have followed it up with the 'other' leg - the non-kinetic including building an Arabic newspaper, civil affairs projects and, as Marines often do, working to better the schools and children - the future of Iraq. They have rolled up some key players recently and this has provided some interesting targets...Many of you saw the fraudulent report on FOX regarding the dead civilians at Fallujah hospital - well, as was later reported (after the firing of he producer and photographer) that NEVER happened - people were killed by the insurgents in the area and it was our Marines who came in and made them pay for killing the innocent...

Finally, here in the center of the province -- Ramadi, the capital – our Army Brigade, a kick-ass unit from the 2dID (gotta like the patch that Gen Lejeune designed for 'em) has been working hard. They have commenced the training of their ISF (new units without the experience of the guys around Fallujah) and have integrated the ISF into operations in the city of Ramadi -- more coming each day. Many of you know that our 1/5 Marines are in Ramadi and, for all the old 5th Marines folks -- this unit is doing us real proud...nearly daily contact including at least 3 coordinated attacks repulsed by well placed, flanking, grazing enfilade fire...These lads are real heroes -- on a daily basis!!!!

Still a lot to do here -- no rose-colored optimism yet; rockets/mortar fire continues nearly nightly in Ramadi and across the AO. We had our first casualty <...> the other night - one of my <...> Sergeants running an enhanced marksmanship course (sustainment training in combat) was killed by 122mm rocket fire; thankfully, no one else was injured...Good Marine, will miss him...

Well, long diatribe in what I hope will be a longer lull in the fighting. Of course, it is the enemy's decision to be quiet -- as I write this to you, rest assured your Marines are moving into position somewhere in preparation to take out another aZ-hole. For all, stay tuned for more as we continue to ramp up ops and convince them that the adage is true -- "Old breed, new breed? No difference as long as it is the MARINE breed..."

Wanna thank all of you for your support - got the offer of candy and packages -- all extremely generous...

Semper Fi


Opening the Gates of Heaven

The words to "Taps" are:

Day Is Done,
Gone the Sun,
From the Earth,
From the Hill,
From the Sky,
All Is Well,
Safely Rest,
God Is Nigh

When Taps is played at dusk, it has a completely different meaning than when Taps is played during the day.  No soldier really wants to hear it played during daylight.  For when the bugle plays Taps in the daylight...that means a soldier has fallen...There is a belief among some that Taps is the clarion call to open the gates of heaven for the fallen warrior and letting them know to "Safely Rest"...

Of course, Memorial Day is about remembering the sacrifices that our military men and women have made over the last 229 years.    We are still a young nation, but one that has made many sacrifices to remain free.  We should also take time to remember the families who have lost loved ones.

I have focused on just a few of the fallen over the last few years.  I've lost three good friends during the War on Terror.  And I write about the others to ensure that we don't forget their sacrifices - I do that for me as much as for anybody.

I can't speak for the friends of the many others who have fallen, but for Mat, Cooter, and Mike, I can say this -

It's important to remember them, and it's just as important to enjoy yourself this weekend.  To spend time with your family and friends.  Have a beer while grilling Wisconsin brats (Schram-bo!) in the backyard while watching your kids play tag. 

What better assurance to them they did not die in vain?

Enjoying your freedom and understanding it's value is the best way to honor the sacrifices of my friends.

That's the way they'd want you to spend Memorial Day. 

Remembering them, and being a good dad and husband and an American is the best way that I can honor their memory.

If you feel that you should do more, you may want to take a look at one of my favorite organizations - the Special Operations Warrior Foundation - which helps care for the families of Special Operation soldiers who have died in the line of duty (combat, training, etc.).  Primarily providing for educational needs, SOWF also provides financial assistance in the form of grants for families.

If you would like to do more, click here for information on Caring for the Defenders.

I'll close with this heartfelt letter, written by Rick Kennedy, that I received via Seamus about Taylor Prazynski - a Marine who recently was buried at Arlington.

On Saturday morning May 21st I flew to Washington, D.C to meet my daughter Mary with grandchildren Calista and Lindsey, and her husband Joe Teller to drive with them to Chesterfield Virginia to attend a ballet recital for Callie that evening. Joe and Mary were in Washington for the burial services of Lance Corporal Taylor Prazynski USMC the 20 year old son of Joe’s cousin John Prazynski. Taylor was killed by enemy fire in Fallujah on May 9th while serving in combat with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment, and 2nd Marine Division. Mary and Joe, along with 50 other family members attended the burial service for Taylor on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, and when I met them they remained emotionally overwhelmed and forever moved by the elegant display of military reverence, and efficiency at Arlington. They were deeply saddened by the loss of this young Marine.

Earlier in the week Taylor’s body arrived at the Greater Cincinnati Airport by commercial jet. All passengers were instructed to remain on the plane until Taylor’s body was removed by a contingent of Marines. A military helicopter followed the Marine vehicle as it motored to the funeral parlor. Police and fire trucks were stationed at the overpasses and along the highway and saluted at Taylor passed by. At the funeral parlor no civilian was allowed to touch the body. The Marines prepared the deceased...A Marine color guard followed by a rider less horse accompanied Taylor’s body down Ohio Highway 4 for funeral services at Fairfield High School gym. Over 1500 people were in attendance of the funeral service at the school where the young Marine graduated in 2003, and played football and ran track. Pastor Dave Workman of the Vineyard Community Church presided. He gave a sterling tribute to this fallen hero that gave his life to his country. The pastor praised Taylor for his work with the church’s youth group, and his volunteer work with a multiple-disabilities class while in high school.

At Arlington on May 20th, the seven pall bearers dressed resplendent in the Marine dress blues uniform marched with the flag draped casket with military precision. When they reached the gravesite they abruptly raised the casket above their shoulders for 30 long seconds, giving the fallen Marine salute, and then rested the casket on its conveyor belt support over the grave. The military chaplain in civilian clothes gave the last rites, and presented the family Taylor’s posthumously awarded Purple Heart Medal.

All seven Marines removed the American Flag from the casket. They raised the stars and stripes above the casket pulling the flag rigid like a drum. Then they tightly folded the flag step by step in a triangle with the ends tucked firmly in place. One of the Marines did an about face and presented the flag to the Marine Sergeant standing alone to the rear of the casket, and saluted the flag.. The Marine in charge carrying the flag proceeded to the seat of the father John Prazynski. The Marine knelt down and bowed his head and presented the flag to the grieving father as the final gesture of sympathy and appreciation by the United States Marine Corps for the brave service of this young Marine.

Seven Marines standing away from the proceedings fired their rifles in three volleys representing a 21 gun salute, and you could hear muffled screams of sorrow from the youth in attendance as a lone bugler in Marine dress blues played the sad haunting sound of “Taps’ that echoed across the green rolling plains of Arlington on to the endless stream of white stones in this section called” Iraqi Freedom”. This was the Marines way of sending a signal to God to open the gates of Heaven for the arrival of [Corporal] Prazynski who gave his life for his country and our fight against terror throughout the world.

Remember Them.  And have a great Memorial Day.

Help The Troops This Memorial Day

Below are several groups who work dilligently to support our military personnel in many different and positive ways.   This Memorial Day weekend, please consider donating  to or volunteering to help our troops at one of these great organizations:

Any Soldier™www.AnySoldier.com
-Marty Horn
SFC, USA MP, Retired
Group's message:  Want to send your support to a soldier in harm's way, but have no idea of what to send, who to send it to, or how to send it?  Any Soldier™ gives individuals and groups everything they need to really do more then just put a magnet on their car. 
AnySoldier.com currently lists over 3,500 military contacts in the war who get your mail and pass on to the soldiers around them.  Any Soldier Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization making a real difference, with your help.  Presently, Any Soldier™ is supporting 90,403 male service members and 22, 566 female service members. 

Helmets to Hardhats
- www.helmetstohardhats.org
Sarah Hayes
Marketing Director
[email protected]
Group's message:  Helmets to Hardhats is a nationwide program that connects National Guardsmen, Reservists, transitioning military members and veterans with quality career training and employment opportunities in the construction industry. Please tell your friends and family about this free program that is available to all of those that have served our country. To learn more about the program, please visit our website.

Homes For Our Troops -
Victoria Mosier
Administrative Director
[email protected]
Office 508-823-3300
Group's message - Homes for Our Troops assists injured veterans and their immediate
families by building new or adapting existing homes for handicapped
accessibility for our American heroes. We accept and welcome financial contributions as well as in kind donations of labor and building materials.  Please visit the website to sign up!  With your help we can accomplish our mission.  Please feel free to contact us by phone, email us to share your thoughts, or request assistance. We hope that you will visit
www.homesforourtroops.org often to see the progress we are making in the aid to our military and their families. Thank you.

RecruitMilitary -
Drew Myers, former Marine Corps captain
[email protected]
Group's message:
RecruitMilitary, founded in 1998, helps find civilian jobs for men and women who are
transitioning out of the armed forces, military veterans with varying amounts of business
experience, members of the reserve forces and National Guard, and military spouses.
The company offers a full range of products and services to corporate America through its website at
http://www.recruitmilitary.com; including the ability to search its database of over 80,000 registered veterans and spouses. All of the company's services are free to job candidates.

Soldiers' Angles -
Don MacKay, Director of Operations
[email protected] (address your email to Don)
Group's Message:
The mission of Soldiers' Angels is to facilitate the "adoption" of a U.S. Soldier.  You get your own soldier, they get an "angel". We ask that you write to your soldier at least once a week and send a care package at least once a month.  You can adopt one soldier or a whole group. Please visit our website to see all of our special projects, some of which are:  Wounded Soldiers Project (you can write the wounded), Operation Top Knot (reach out to families who had babies born while their soldier is deployed), Family Outreach Team (support for family members who have a soldier deployed), and the Letter Writing Team (where you can specify how many soldiers' addresses you want to receive, on which days, so you can write to them).  Soldiers' Angels will be receiving the names of 3,000 newly deployed soldiers this week (we got 9,000 during the third deploy) and we need angels!!  This is very gratifying work!  Please join today to adopt a U.S. Soldier!

Friendly Fire Memorial - Canadian Troops Remembered

Anita H. sends this story about remembering friends...

Fallen Canadian soldiers hailed as heroes at emotional service in Kentucky
10:55 PM EDT May 26

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (CP) - Four Canadians killed by U.S. friendly fire in Afghanistan were honoured Monday by their American fellow soldiers in a powerful, historic tribute that moved family members to tears and brought home the bonds forged by tragedy at war...

"Marc fought with his brothers and now he's with his brothers," said a shaken Richard Leger, father of Sgt. Marc Leger. "It means an awful lot to me to understand that."

Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Pte. Richard Green and Pte. Nathan Smith also died April 18, 2002, when an American fighter pilot mistakenly dropped a bomb on Canadians who were conducting a military exercise....

The four men, who served alongside U.S. soldiers as part of Task Force Rakkasan in the coalition against terrorism in Kandahar, are the first non-Americans to be included on the memorial wall.

"I don't think they could get any higher accolades than that; to be recognized by their friends and comrades," said Nathan Smith's father, Lloyd.

"It's not a political gesture. This is coming from the men on the ground. This is coming from the heart."

The event, held in a field on the sprawling base that's home to the 101st Airborne, included 180 regiment soldiers dressed in fatigues and berets. They were joined by 14 members of the Edmonton-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Three American soldiers who died in Iraq in 2003 were also honoured by the Rakkasans, who take their name from the Japanese term for paratroopers in the Second World War. It means "falling down umbrella."

Col. Michael Steele, commanding officer of the U.S. regiment's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, praised the seven men, including "four from our strong coalition partner and our good friend Canada" as "courageous soldiers who epitomized selfless service and heroism."

"This is an extended family," said Steele. "It includes not only those assigned to the regiment but also those who have fought side by side with our soldiers. Anyone who fights with us is a brother. He is a Rakkasan."...

Read the whole piece.  There's nothing more heart-breaking than a friendly fire incident.

I wonder if Col. Steele was Captain Steele of Task Force Ranger in Moghidishu...

Marines in Afghanistan - Picture of the Week


U.S. Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, provide security while fellow Marines leave a CH-46 Chinook helicopter while conducting security and ambush patrols in the Sarkani Valley, Afghanistan, May 7, 2005. The 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment is conducting security and stabilization operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James L. Yarboro

(click on thumbnail for larger photo)

Send A Prayer for Abu al-Zarqawi

Arthur Chrenkoff is asking for prayers for ol' Abu Zarqawi...here's my contribution to the prayer vigil in Chrenkoff's comments:

Yo, Abu!

Hope that it was some Marine or Soldier with a tight shot group that made you suffer. It's not enough, but it's a start...here's to hoping that you'll get more of the same soon.

I pray for your capture, followed by trial, followed by ending your evil blight on the world, and I wish that you are judged by Nick Berg in the hereafter...at which point you can burn in hell for all eternity.

So head over to Chrenkoff's and leave a prayer in the comments at Chrenkoff for ol' Abu...

The Case For Ilario Pantano - Part 7 - Murder Charges Dropped

Murder charges dropped against Lieutenant Pantano.

It's over.  Pantano wants to return to a combat unit - which is surprising after all the crap that he's been through (you'd think he'd want nothing more to do with the Corps).  After all, there was a chance he could get the Death Penalty from the organization that he loves.

Now, I can finally say that I know Marines who served with Pantano and I know Marines currently serving with Coburn.  I know Marines who Commanded Pantano.  While I keep seeing comment spam from a mother of a Marine who claims that her son went to The Basic School with Pantano and states that he was a problem there (never verified), every single one of them support Pantano.  Every. Single. One.

The ones that I know would follow Pantano to hell and back.

[The other Blackfive posts on Ilario Pantano: The Case for Ilario Pantano Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6]

Now I'm "It"

Normally, I don't do these kind of things, but since it's a request from an American in Italy...

1) Total number of films I own on DVD/video:

Over 300.  My wife always says she added 300 movies and 500 CDs to her collection when she married me...

2) The last film I bought:

Shaun of the Dead - a birthday present for a good friend of mine.  Next might be Battle of the Planets, followed by Firefly, Blue Planet, and Team America...

3) The last film I watched:

Watched Bend It Like Beckham last night because my wife and I were discussing an article in the Economist about American Baseball and European Football (soccer).  European Football might be headed the way of Baseball - this is both good and bad.  Anyway, since little Blackfive could also watch it, we popped it in.  It's one of my favorite movies that doesn't involve guns or zombies or Bruce Campbell or Chow Yun Fat.

4) Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order):

Band of Brothers - I could watch Part 1 and 2 a million times...

Tombstone - I always seem to find this on cable...and can never switch the channel once found.

Princess Bride - I usually throw out a gratuitous PB quote once per day...

The Incredibles - My son thinks I have a lot in common with Mr. Incredible (he means mostly the growing waistline and receding hairline, though...)

Me and Dubya have many in common.  It's a toss-up between Animal House and Ronin.

5) Tag 5 people and have them put this in their journal:

Eric (do they have Robert Service movies?)