Neat article on Marines, America, and press in Iraq. Go Semper Fi. Long but worth it


TBcom Admin /Prayers NYFD/NYPD
Imagine the changes in "the news" someday when the next Brokaws, Rathers,
and Jennings arise from this crew who lived with us during this campaign!

Bruce M. Barnes
Colonel, USMC
Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment
900 Commodore Lane
San Bruno, CA 94066

April 21, 2003
War Reflection: With The Marines In Iraq

By Richard Tomkins, United Press International

WASHINGTON -- What's the face of the Iraq war? Is it a scene of physical
destruction people see on their televisions and in their newspapers? Is it a
glimpse of sullen -- more often relieved -- Iraqi prisoners or celebrating
civilians? Or is it the wave of camouflaged U.S. troops routing an enemy,
and in typical American fashion, then embracing the children of a foe vanquished?
It's all that and more.
For journalists embedded with U.S. forces, the dominant feature of Operation
Iraqi Freedom is, and always will be, the faces of individual Marines,
soldiers, airmen or sailors with whom they lived, sweated and feared during
the long slog to Baghdad.
There is, for example, the unidentified Marine with his mouth set in a
grimace from the bullet that passed through his knee. He tried to wave off
comrades who eventually carried him to cover during the heaviest fighting
for al-Azimiyah Palace in east Baghdad. While being carried he continued to
fire his weapon at the enemy until his ammunition ran out.
There is Marine Pvt. Aaron Davis, a jovial and slightly pudgy kid from
California, who moved nearby with unbelievable speed and abandon, braving
explosions and flying fragments from rocket-propelled grenades to help carry
wounded to an evacuation.
There is Capt. Shawn Basco, a forward air controller, who handed out candy
from Meals Ready to Eat packs to village children and food to their parents
with the same personal sense of mission that earlier had saved scores
American lives and snuffed out many an Iraqi one when calling in air strikes.
"You hear about the World War II generation being 'the Greatest
Generation,'" Lt. Col. Fred Padilla, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th
Marines, told this correspondent. "In a sense that's true -- we're certainly
living off the equity they earned.
"But this generation -- call it Generation X or whatever -- is also every
bit as extraordinary. They measure up."
For 36 days this correspondent was in a unique position to gauge that
sentiment. As part of Pentagon policy for media coverage of the war, I was
embedded with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, or simply Bravo 1/5.
Bravo 1/5 was one of the first two units to cross into Iraq from Kuwait at
the start of the land war (we would have been first, but Alpha Company broke
the line of march and moved ahead of us). Bravo 1/5 captured a gas and oil
separation plant in the al Ramallah oil fields in southern Iraq, routed
Iraqi defenders while capturing a key bridge over the Saddam Hussein Canal
in central Iraq, liberated village after village and a children's prison,
fought its way into Baghdad through a gauntlet of RPG fire, and seized and
held Saddam's 17-acre complex on the Tigris River despite a five-hour
onslaught from Baath Party gunmen and foreign extremists. It was one of the
heaviest battles of the Iraq conflict, with the besieged Marines nearly
running out of ammunition.
Thirty-five Marines were wounded that morning and one killed. Luckily for
Bravo, only three of the wounded came from its ranks.
In battle, the men of Bravo 1/5 fought with tenacious courage. In liberating
a people long cowed by the repression of dictatorship, they acted with great
compassion, and in many cases a great tenderness. "Operation Iraqi Freedom,"
a name they initially greeted with scorn and expletive, gained poignant
currency as the Marines viewed the plight of the Iraqi people -- lives in
unbelievable squalor -- and their explosions of joy at being set free from
the grip of fear.
Earlier mutterings that the war to topple Saddam Hussein should be called
Operation Sandstorm because of weather, or Operation Stand Still for the
delays in march to allow logistics vehicles to catch up with advancing front
line units, were quickly forgotten.
"I feel pretty good today," 1st Sgt. Bill Leuthe of California said after
liberating a town near Baghdad and a prison for children, where charges were
reportedly beaten every morning simply for being there. "I think we all do."
Leuthe, Davis, Shevlin, Washburn, Malley, Lockett, Jones, Moll, Lyon,
Bishop, Avilos, Nolan, Lockett, Meldoza, Craft, George -- the list of names
of the men who did themselves proud, the Marines proud and their nation
proud is too long to recite. There were more than 180 in the company; more
than 200 when you add in attachments, such as armored vehicle crews and
additional Navy corpsmen.
They were a cross-section of America. There were whites, blacks, Hispanics,
Asians, American Indians and every hue and mixture in between. Pvt. Dustin
Pangelinann, 23, was from Saipan in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Marianas.
Fifteen members of Bravo Company were not U.S. citizens and represented the
newest wave of immigrants to our country. Some were from Mexico and one was
from Haiti. There were also several from Russia and Ukraine.
Some came from poor backgrounds, others were solidly middle class. One
Marine, who didn't need to work because of a family fortune, enlisted in his
late 20s in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
And yes, some even had had youthful brushes with the law.
But they all shared two things. They were Marines and "Devil Dogs." Not
hyphenated Marines, just Marines -- the "Few and the Proud," carrying on the
tradition of courage their regimental forebears showed at Bellieu Wood and
the Argonne, at Guadalcanal and Okinawa, at the Chosen Reservoir and Inchon,
and at Hue.
"None of you had to be here," company commander Capt. Jason Smith told his
men before crossing the border berm into Iraq from Kuwait. "You all chose to
be here by becoming Marines, by doing something good for the world.
"Take a look around you. We are all different ... what other military force
or country in the world can say that? The fact that we are all different and
live with each other and focus together under adverse circumstances tells me
and the world a lot."
This group of men, this collection of Marines, he said, comes from a nation
that "is going to war to defend an idea" of freedom, rule of law and human
dignity. "We're going to war to make the world a better place because we
don't want to happen again what happened on Sept. 11."
It's difficult to convey the rich texture of the men who make up Bravo 1/5
and the special camaraderie among them. Words just aren't adequate enough.
But they are truly a band of brothers. Even the company oddball, the Marine
who somehow never seemed to fit in or pull his own weight, was looked out
for and protected with the concern like that of a big brother looking out
for an awkward sibling.
Bravo 1/5, in a sense, proves two truisms this correspondent has discovered
in 30 years of reporting, much of it in war zones: Sharing a foxhole is the
ultimate bonding experience, and the word "cliché" needs a new definition.
According to the American Heritage College dictionary, "cliché" is "a trite
or overused expression or idea" or stereotype. All too often it is used with
a negative cast. Yet clichéd characters and generalizations are based on
Take the characters in any war movie you've ever seen. There is the jokester,
the screw-up, the smart mouth, the lothario, the kindhearted sergeant with a
tough-as-nails exterior, the good-natured medic and the caring-but-firm
It's no wonder these characters exist on paper and celluloid. They exist in
real life, just as the scenes of GIs passing out candy to civilians, sharing
their last smoke or holding up a magazine pin-up to troops in a passing convoy.
Clichéd in the context of Bravo 1/5 should be a label of honor, because it
mirrors America and is replicated throughout our society and military services.
The commander of Bravo Company is Capt. Jason Smith, from Baton Rouge. He
fits the image -- tall, square-jawed, a good-natured, decent and erudite man
who requires things be done correctly. A graduate of Louisiana State
University with a B.A. in history, his main goal in Operation Iraqi Freedom
-- other than accomplishing unit missions -- was bringing everyone home.
Watching him one night, when troops were out setting an ambush, was like
watching a parent of a teenager waiting for his or her child to return home
from a New Year's Eve party to which they had driven. The silent pacing was
enough to drive one crazy. Any casual mention about how the company had been
lucky in the casualty department would result in a quick, sharp look of
reproach -- don't jinx good fortune by talking about it.
The executive officer is 1st Lt. David Gustafson, a quiet, shy Swede from
Maynard, Minn., with a wicked sense of humor. The only graduate of the Naval
Academy among the company's officers, his educational background is often a
butt of jokes. So too his efforts to conceal the cigarette smoking he'd
taken up since crossing into Iraq.
And then there is Gunnery Sgt. Ron "my first name is Gunny" Jenks, the
company logistician. Before battle, the Gulf War veteran would sternly but
lovingly caution his men on mistakes to avoid and advise on lessons learned
the hard way. His "OK, gents, let's get a move on," inevitably followed his
barked orders. But for all the sternness, there was the old clichéd heart of
gold. Gunny Jenks always had words of encouragement, always knew who was
married, who was expecting a child and made it a point to inquire about them. He
loaded up on cigarettes, parceling them out to his "knuckle heads" when they
ran out in the Iraqi desert.
"They're like my own kids," he'd say in quiet moments -- not in front of
them, of course.
Bravo 1/5 has now left Baghdad. It is heading south toward Kuwait and an
eventual return home to California. But there will be no rest for the weary.
After an expected parade in Oceanside and a few weeks of reunion with
family, the band of brothers will ship out to Okinawa to complete a
previously scheduled deployment.
Operation Iraqi Freedom will become just a memory, and another ribbon of
honor for men serving their country.
Post script: This reporter took his leave of Bravo 1/5 on April 15. It was
one of the hardest farewells I've ever had to make. In the 36 days I spent
with them, I had been welcomed and made part of the family. The idea of
leaving my band of brothers was wrenching, yet my family at home was also
calling. In the end, I left quickly, with few goodbyes. The sight of a
blubbering reporter was something best avoided. Speaking with other formerly
embedded reporters in Kuwait turned up similar emotional pulls.
So how to say thank you? How to say how much I love and respect them? Words
can't do it. So like other reporters, I give them the smartest, snappiest
salute I, as a civilian, can muster.
God speed, Bravo 1/5. Semper Fi (Semper Fidelis, "Always Faithful," the
Marine Corps motto).

Love 'em all Baby!!!!
That gave me goose bumps reading that!

Nice article

and to the people that don't support our troops and give them the respect they deserve, you can rot in hell...