2nd Draft

2nd Draft Ch 10 – 17 Apr 04, Battle of Husaybah30 May

On the promotion of Dom Neal to LtCol, and the appointment of Gen Mattis to SecDef, here’s the latest draft of the Battle of Husaybah, 17 April 2004, with links to Dom Neal describing the actions of that day:

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Prior 0800:

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[Section 2]

In retrospect, a Lima Company Commanding Officer would be able to label the events of April, 2004, as the end of one phase of the Iraq War and the beginning of another. The juncture between these two phases would be apparent as one of several Tipping Points, in the phrase of popular author Gladwell, characterized by the accumulation of small factors which add up to a significant change. In this case, the small factors included the lack of socioeconomic programs to support the military victory in 2003, and the U.S. over-reaction to the killing of 4 Americans in Fallujah at the end of March, 2004. These accumulated factors together caused a tipping point after which the Iraqi population became generally supportive of the insurgents. But, at the time, the Lima Marines had not yet adapted, though, as we have seen, Rick Gannon — a scholar of warfare, and the son of a Marine Officer who had served in the Vietnam War — was amassing evidence in support of the view that the assumptions about the population and the insurgency were wrong.

Husaybah – 8:00 am: The morning of April 17th began with a 24-round mortar barrage on Camp Husaybah. Fortunately, there were no injuries due to the fact that all 24 rounds landed outside the base near the border checkpoint or in Syria itself. A six-man sniper team from 8th Platoon, 1st Force Reconnaissance Company (callsign Broadsword 81A), occupying a rooftop observation post over-watching northeast Husaybah, heard the mortars being fired and looked south to investigate. The Force Recon unit observed several armed insurgents, all dressed alike wearing black robes and red and white checkered head wraps, moving in and around the former Ba’ath Party headquarters, a large abandoned two-story cement building. Moments later, four additionally armed insurgents were seen crossing the wadi (dry creek bed) bridge on Market street moving westbound toward the headquarters. Broadsword 81A opened fire killing all four. The original insurgents from the Ba’ath headquarters saw and heard Broadsword’s fire then maneuvered to surround their position. More insurgents seemed to appear out of the woodwork and they were able to mass their fires and engage the Force Recon unit. Broadsword 81A received a significant amount of RPK medium machine gun, rocket propelled grenade (RPG), and AK-47 small arms fire. Broadsword 81A was pinned down and radioed Lima Company at Camp Husaybah for assistance.

The Lima Company Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that morning was CAAT Blue, Weapons Company, led by their Platoon Commander, 1stLt Isaac Moore. At approximately 8:15 am, a four-vehicle section from CAAT Blue was dispatched from Camp Husaybah to assist Force Recon. CAAT Blue traveled east along Market Street directly towards Broadsword 81A and straight into an enemy ambush originating from the former Ba’ath Party headquarters.

The enemy position was well emplaced inside the building where approximately 10 men initiated the ambush with heavy RPK fire directed at the lead vehicle followed with volley-fired RPG and AK-47 fire against all four CAAT vehicles. The lead Humvee (HMMWV – Highly Mobile Multi Wheeled Vehicle) was catastrophically damaged as an RPG round exploded underneath it and destroyed the transmission. 1stLt Moore, LCpl Jonathan Craigen and LCpl Leehue Xiong were all wounded in the initial ambush from the effects of small arms fire either through actual ricochets or from spalling – when hard surfaces break apart and produce additional shrapnel as a result of a bullet impact. Fortunately, their wounds were minor enough to allow them to continue fighting and all four vehicles returned fire and slowly continued eastbound along Market Street, hampered by the damaged lead vehicle. A heavy volume of fire from the CAAT vehicles suppressed the enemy long enough for all four vehicles to exit the ambush kill zone and establish a flanking position to the east.

The lead vehicle sputtered to a halt in a dirt alleyway on the enemy’s southeast flank. The remaining three vehicles took up mutually supporting positions along the enemy’s eastern flank and began to deliver an overwhelming amount of direct fire into the building using Mk-19 grenade launchers, .50 cal heavy machine guns, 240G medium machine guns, and M-16s. 1stLt Moore, Sgt Ryan Harnett, LCpl William Rosson, and LCpl Russell Friedman, using a Mk-19 vehicle as cover, approached the Ba’ath headquarters from Market Street in order to help suppress the building with M-16 fire. Prior to the group reaching their firing positions, LCpl Friedman was seriously wounded as an RPG round exploded nearby and sent shrapnel into his back, buttocks and left wrist. Broadsword 81A later stated the RPG round was fired from the east and most likely intended for the Mk-19 vehicle, but detonated in midair, apparently from a power line or wire strike, prior to hitting the Humvee. Sgt Harnett and LCpl Rosson assisted LCpl Friedman off of Market Street and into the protected alleyway where the disabled Humvee was located and LCpl Joseph Brammer administered first aid.

Cpl Matthew Nale, LCpl Andrew Howard, and LCpl Tony Montgomery moved down the alleyway towards the Ba’ath Party headquarters using a row of buildings to cover their movement. Two enemy insurgents emerged from behind a wall one block away and sprayed their position with AK-47 fire. LCpl Montgomery was hit in his left leg. The bullet traveled through his upper thigh and exited out of his hamstring, resulting in severe bleeding. Cpl Nale and LCpl Howard returned fire and a brief firefight ensued during which both were wounded from spalling as bullets impacted the wall next to them. Seeing that Cpl Nale and LCpl Howard were fully occupied in their firefight with the two insurgents, LCpl Joseph Brammer, while under enemy fire, ran to LCpl Montgomery’s position and provided the necessary first aid to stop his leg from bleeding. The two enemy insurgents broke contact and fled south into the city. 1stLt Moore informed Lima headquarters that he had two severely wounded Marines and was in need of an aerial MEDEVAC.

Occurring simultaneously with the actions at the Ba’ath headquarters, a separate six-man sniper team from 8th Platoon, 1st Force Reconnaissance Company (Broadsword 81B) occupying a rooftop post in the Husaybah-Karabilah (H-K) Triangle, started taking enemy fire. The unit received medium machine gun, RPG, and small arms fire from several directions as the enemy used nearby homes and buildings as protected firing points and surrounded the unit. Broadsword 81B called for assistance from Camp Husaybah. Weapons Platoon, Lima Company (Lima 4), commanded by 1stLt Dan Carroll, was the secondary reaction force that morning and was ordered to depart friendly lines to assist Broadsword 81B. With firefights now occurring in two separate locations in the city involving multiple friendly units, Capt Richard Gannon, the Lima Company Commanding Officer, accompanied Weapons Platoon into Husaybah in order to better direct and maneuver his units. Utilizing two extra vehicles as an additional security element, Weapons Platoon mounted a series of Humvees and drove east through central Husaybah.

Approximately five blocks south of the Graveyard, Lima 4 was hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack. Fortunately, there were no injuries and only one Humvee received slight shrapnel damage so the platoon pushed through the blast zone and dismounted on East End Road where they immediately received sporadic small arms and RPG fire from both the east and west. Lima 4 moved north along East End Road and 1stLt Carroll observed four enemy insurgents firing from an abandoned building to the northeast. LCpl Michael Smith approached the building and engaged it with a single SMAW (Shoulder-fired Multi-purpose Assault Weapon) rocket killing three of the enemy and wounding one. Cpl Christopher Gibson, the assault section leader, observed the lone wounded insurgent stumbling eastbound along a dirt road, which ran along the southern wall of the Husaybah Hospital. At this time, Capt Gannon learned that CAAT Blue was requesting MEDEVAC assistance for two wounded from of an enemy ambush at the Ba’ath headquarters. Capt Gannon immediately tasked GySgt Sandor Vegh, Lima Company Gunny, to take two Humvees to the Ba’ath headquarters in order to provide assistance.

3rd Platoon, Lima Company (Lima 3), commanded by 2ndLt Bradley Watson, exited Camp Husaybah with the mission to secure LZ Nightingale (a helicopter landing zone located 300m north of Husaybah) in order to support the upcoming aerial MEDEVAC for CAAT Blue. Traveling via two 7-ton trucks, 3rd Platoon arrived at the LZ and dismounted. The platoon received occasional small arms fire originating from northern Husaybah but unable to positively identify the location of the shooters, they did not return fire. At approximately 9:00 am, 2ndLt Watson informed 1stLt Moore and Capt Gannon that LZ Nightingale was secure. GySgt Vegh, now co-located with CAAT Blue at the Ba’ath headquarters, put Cpl Friedman and LCpl Montgomery into one of the Humvees, drove them to LZ Nightingale, and linked up with Lima 3. The two injured Marines were placed on the Army UH-60H Blackhawk and flown to Camp Al Qa’im for medical treatment.

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Included in the two-vehicle package sent by Capt Gannon was one TOW (Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided) missile variant Humvee. With that asset now on scene at the Ba’ath headquarters, 1stLt Moore and Cpl Cervantes, a seasoned TOW gunner, devised a plan to break the ambush with a series of TOW missile shots into the building. 1stLt Moore, Sgt Harnett, and LCpl Rosson once again approached the building by way of Market Street and established individual M-16 firing positions as the Mk-19 variant Humvee maneuvered across an open plaza north of Market Street and peppered the headquarters with 40mm grenades. Under the cover of friendly fire, LCpl Brandon Phelps as the driver and Cpl Richard Cervantes as the gunner maneuvered their TOW vehicle into firing position and exposed themselves to the direct line of enemy fire on three separate occasions to deliver three accurate TOW missile shots (one each time) directly into the heart of the building. The TOW shots partially collapsed the structure and forced the enemy to flee. With the firefight over, 1stLt Moore reformed CAAT Blue, maintained perimeter security on the Ba’ath headquarters, and awaited the arrival of Lima 3 and Broadsword 81A.

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With the MEDEVAC complete at LZ Nightingale, 3rd Platoon, Lima Company moved south into northeast Husaybah and linked-up with Broadsword 81A, the Force Recon team that had been pinned down earlier that morning in the vicinity of the corner of East End and Market Street. Once linked-up, Lima 3 and Broadsword 81A received sporadic fire from a series of homes to the east across the wadi. The units maneuvered west into the city and began a house-to-house search of northeast Husaybah before arriving on Market Street. Sporadic fire continued throughout their search and 3rd Platoon arrested an individual on Market Street for suspicion of participating in the morning’s attacks. Although unknown at the time, the individual was Abu Amani, a high level financier for Al Zarqawi -the most wanted terrorist in Iraq. Link-up was then conducted with CAAT Blue at the Ba’ath Party headquarters and the three units swept and cleared the building where they found a significant amount of weapons both inside and outside and in a nearby car consisting of RPK medium machine guns, multiple RPG rounds (w/ launchers) and AK-47 assault rifles. Several fresh blood trails lead to a nearby house where an additional cache of weapons was discovered, but no enemy insurgents (dead or alive) were found.

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0830 hours [dtg, grid]
“Lima 5, this is Lima 6,” said Captain Gannon to his second in command, First Lieutenant Neal over the Lima Company tactical net. “I got good news and I got bad news. The good news is we got the casualties onto the bird and we got them safe. The bad news is we’ve already lost one Marine. I’m going to go off freq to go develop the situation.”

At that point, Neal knew that most of the forces were pushed towards the Eastern part of Husaybah. Major Schreffler, the Battalion S-3 Operations Officer and the former Lima Company Commanding Officer, was popping in and out of the Combat Operations Center at Camp Husaybah. Schreffler was also going to his jump vehicle — a hummer equipped with enough radios to monitor all the available communications nets — so that he could talk to the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lopez, and the rest of the Battalion Staff. By that point, Schreffler was already developing a plan to have the Battalion reinforce Lima Company in Husaybah.

An hour went by. Usually, Captain Gannon habitually came up on the radio to give Lieutenant Neal a situation report every 15 minutes so that Neal could have full situational awareness, even though he was in the Combat Operations Center at the Lima base. Neal had only been on patrol in the city of Husaybah once or twice during the deployment so far.

Weapons Platoon had pushed deep into the East of the City, near the dividing line between Lima Company and Kilo Company’s respective zones of action. As it turned out, this was a seam in the Marine’s operational areas that the insurgents sought to exploit. For example, Medal of Honor recipient Jason Dunham, of Kilo 3/7, was mortally wounded in this seam between the two rifle companies three days earlier.

Neal noted that “company commanders have a tendency to think that whatever manuever element we are with, that’s our security, so we don’t bring security. [Captain Gannon] probably thought that same thing — that between where 3d platoon is and where weapons platoon is, it’s safe.” Weapons Platoon had cleared one building, and then hopped over to the rooftop of another building, not realizing that was another insurgent stronghold designed to be used as a fall back position for the coming attack to seize the Marine base. Captain Gannon, moving from 3d platoon to weapons platoon — to the point where he could best command his company, leading from the front as Marine Officers are taught to do — moved into the stronghold building with the Lima Weapons Platoon Marines on top. Captain Gannon was shot in that building.

Corporal Gibson, Smith, and Valdez — all of Weapons Platoon — notice the gunfire and move to link up with the Company Commander. Gibson, the first to enter the building, is shot too. Gibson reports that he has been hit over his PRR — personal radio for intra-squad communications. Weapons Platoon realizes that they have insurgents underneath them in the house. But, by that point, it’s too late. Smith and Valdez go into the stronghold house to pull out Gibson, but they are both shot too. Neal is monitoring this on the Lima Company command net, trying to figure out where the Company Commander, Captain Gannon is located. Lima 3, Brad Watson, hasn’t seen him. CAAT Blue Actual, Lieutenant Moore, hasn’t seen him. Captain Gannon had moved from where CAAT Blue had been hit and immobilized. Hours go by.

****

Gunny Vegh had run out into Husaybah with Gannon. Vegh always saw himself as the primary tactical adviser to the company commander, not as the company logistician. “I have a police sergeant for logistics,” Vegh told me. Vegh, a school-trained scout sniper, was among the most proficient Marines in Lima Company, and he coordinated the evacuation of casualties in Husaybah on that hectic day when Gannon was killed. At one point, he came up on Link’s squad, which was held up near the Baath Party Headquarters on Market Street by a sniper.

“A sniper had started taking fire at us,” recalled Link. “We were moving into the Baath Party house. We had security outside. That’s when the sniper started taking shots at us. He hit a 7-ton [truck] driver. He was trying to shoot at us. We were pinned down, trying to see where it was coming from. I sent Sergeant Soudan out to the building where it was coming from to take an AT-4 [rocket] shot, but then the sniper moved positions. All of a sudden, Gunny Vegh is just standing there, and the rounds were dinging. [Vegh said,] ‘You guys scared to meet Jesus… Let’s fucking go.’ I took off running, Parker [the first fire team leader in Link’s squad] took off running. Then the whole squad took off running. [It was one of those situations] where that was enough leadership until we got to the house [where the sniper was]. Then, I said, ‘First team do this,’ but that initial run up there was just a matter of ‘everyone, who’s coming with me.’ [The house that they assaulted was] 150 to 200 meters [away from the position where Gunny Vegh came up on Link’s squad].”
When I asked Gunny Vegh about this incident, he said only, “I’ll let the Marines talk about that,” and “It’s one of those things that Gunnies do.”

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Husaybah-Karabilah Triangle – 10:00 am: Still taking fire on East End Rd, Weapons Platoon (Lima 4) consolidated and pressed north in order to reach the dirt road leading to the hospital when the enemy fire intensified. During that movement north, LCpl Gary VanLeuvan was protecting the backs of his fellow Marines by providing rear security for the unit. A long burst of enemy small arms fire came from a series of homes to the west and he was struck by a bullet and killed. The platoon returned fire into the buildings, but was unable to locate the shooters. The fire continued as and Weapons Platoon turned east and redirected its focus on pursuing the lone enemy wounded insurgent and extracting Broadsword 81B. Once south of the hospital, Lima 4 conducted a visual link-up with Broadsword 81B, which was located on the roof of a nearby abandoned house. Broadsword 81B had a vantage point over eastern Husaybah and the H-K Triangle and was able to direct Weapons Platoon’s pursuit of the fleeing wounded insurgent. Broadsword 81B observed an additional five enemy insurgents with small arms and RPGs running into a nearby school to the northeast of Weapons Platoons’ position and directed 1stLt Carroll onto the site. Weapons Platoon searched the school as 1stLt Carroll, in order to gain his own vantage point over eastern Husaybah, climbed a series of walls and positioned himself on top of a nearby two-story cinderblock house that was still under construction. Cpl Lanzi, machine gun section leader, and Cpl McDowell, machine gun team leader, accompanied 1stLt Carroll onto the roof.

The school search turned up negative. As the Marines filtered out of the building 1stLt Carroll heard rifle fire to the north across Route Jade, the main two-lane highway that runs into Husaybah. With the aid of Cpl Lanzi, 1stLt Carroll observed the origin of sniper fires to be an abandoned set of military barracks and noticed that the fire was aimed west in the direction of the Ba’ath Party headquarters. 1stLt Carroll directed Cpl Gibson to reposition his assault section along the southern side of Route Jade and engage the building. To directly supervise the engagement, Capt Gannon moved forward with the assault section as LCpl Smith fired two SMAW rockets directly into the barracks and LCpl Jason Limieux followed up with a third SMAW rocket.

Lima 3, CAAT Blue, and Broadsword 81A completed their search of the Ba’ath Party headquarters and surrounding homes. As they reorganized for a follow on mission, they received small arms fire from the east. The fire was sporadic and inaccurate and once the units reestablished themselves they moved east into the H-K Triangle in order to lend assistance to Lima 4. Lima 3 and Broadsword 81A traveled by foot. 1stLt Moore left a security element consisting of two vehicles and a dozen Marines at the Ba’ath headquarters in order to guard the building and defend the disabled Humvee. The remaining two CAAT Blue vehicles drove east along Route Jade to link up with Lima 4 and Broadsword 81B in the H-K Triangle. CAAT Blue arrived on scene in the H-K Triangle just after Weapons Platoon engaged the barracks north of Route Jade. 1stLt Carroll, seeing that the SMAW rockets did not produce the desired results, directed CAAT Blue to maneuver into firing position and engage with heavier weapons. 1stLt Moore instructed Cpl Cervantes to position his TOW vehicle along a piece of high ground just to the south of Route Jade and fire one TOW missile into the barracks silencing the enemy sniper fire.

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Cpl Gibson’s assault section, with Capt Gannon, began moving south through the H-K Triangle along a series of dirt roads to rejoin the platoon. During their movement, sporadic enemy small arms fire was heard but its origin could not be determined. Moments later, Cpl Gibson was shot as he passed by the house that 1stLt Carroll was using as a rooftop observation post. LCpl Rueben Valdez and LCpl Michael Smith, under the impression that the enemy fire had come from the down the street, assisted Cpl Gibson through an open gate and into the front courtyard of the observation house and began to provide first aid. LCpl Valdez and LCpl Smith believed that they were pulling Cpl Gibson out of a kill zone and into the safety of a walled courtyard. However, the reality of the situation was much more dire. The large two-story house that 1stLt Carroll was occupying as a vantage point, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, was in fact an enemy stronghold. An insurgent inside the house had observed the assault section’s movement down the dirt road and shot Cpl Gibson as he passed the front gate. And now, the enemy was staring at three Marines completely exposed inside a walled courtyard and completely unaware. The insurgents, hidden inside the first floor of the house, opened fire with an RPK medium machine gun – killing Cpl Gibson and LCpl Smith, and severely wounding LCpl Valdez. 1stLt Carroll and his radio operator, LCpl Joseph Talavera, heard the gunfire and immediately ran to the rooftop edge and looked down. What they saw in the courtyard below was LCpl Valdez attempting to crawl to safety as an enemy insurgent ran from inside the house and into the courtyard. 1stLt Carroll and LCpl Talavera immediately opened fire but the insurgent still managed to shoot and kill LCpl Valdez. A brief exchange of fire occurred before the insurgent was wounded and ducked back into the first floor of the house.

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1stLt Moore and Sgt Harnett heard the heavy RPK fire originating from the house and each took their respective CAAT vehicles to investigate. As their two Humvees passed by the house, LCpl Kurt Liedtke, the .50 cal gunner, spotted a grenade being tossed over the wall and towards his vehicle. The grenade exploded resulting in a flat tire on the Humvee so the crew dismounted in order to cordon the building. An enemy insurgent stepped into the road and attempted to fire an RPG at the Humvee but 1stLt Carroll saw him and immediately opened fired with his M-16 rifle, killing the insurgent before he could launch the RPG. 1stLt Moore coordinated with 1stLt Carroll and then directed LCpl Liedtke to open fire into the first floor of the house as their vehicle slowly drove by a second time. 1stLt Moore, Sgt Harnett, and LCpl William Riecke dismounted the vehicle and, with elements from Weapons Platoon, engaged in a brief firefight with the insurgents in the house. The firefight was initiated by an exchange of small arms fire followed by a mutual grenade battle. During the firefight, 1stLt Carroll continued to direct 4th Platoon and CAAT Blue to surround the house and establish a tight cordon in order to cut off all enemy egress routes from the building and await assistance from Lima 3 and Broadsword 81A & B.

With two of his Force Recon sniper teams engaged with the enemy, Capt Michael Hudson, Platoon Commander of 8th Platoon, 1st Force Recon Company assembled Broadsword 52 (a third Recon sniper team temporarily attached to Lima Company) and left Camp Husaybah in order to supervise the link up of Broadsword’s 81A & 81B and provide assistance to Weapons Platoon and CAAT Blue. Included in the Broadsword 52 package was Capt Jon “2PAM” Stofka, the Lima Company Forward Air Controller (FAC), who was riding along in the event close air support would be needed. Broadsword 52 left Camp Husaybah in two Humvees and was approximately halfway down Market Street when they were hit by an IED attack. The IED explosion peppered both vehicles with shrapnel and injured two Force Recon Marines with minor shrapnel wounds. Sgt Timothy Novakovitch was hit in his left arm and Sgt Michael Scott was hit in his right shoulder. Broadsword 52 pushed through the blast zone and continued toward the H-K Triangle. They arrived at Lima 4’s position at approximately the same time as Lima 3 and Broadsword 81A & 81B, who had traveled to the scene on foot.

Husaybah-Karabilah Triangle – 12:00 pm: With all units linked up, 1stLt Carroll ordered 3rd Platoon to reinforce the cordon around the house by taking up firing positions around the building and on nearby rooftops in order to cover every window and doorway. Meanwhile, Capt Hudson and Broadsword 81 elements (with Capt Stofka) joined 1stLt Carroll on the rooftop. Force Recon Marines, with elements from Weapons Platoon’s assault section, descended the staircase in an attempt to physically clear the house from top to bottom. They successfully cleared the second floor. However, further progress was halted due to fierce enemy resistance. The enemy insurgents on the first floor were lobbing grenades up the staircase practically as fast as Marines were throwing them down, with one instance of an insurgent being able to throw a U.S. grenade back up the staircase before it exploded. The clearing team withdrew back to the rooftop in order to devise an alternate plan to clear the first floor of the house. Broadsword 81 elements suggested pouring gasoline down the staircase, igniting it, and smoking the enemy out. With the assistance of 3rd Platoon and Weapons Platoon, several 5-gallon gas cans were passed up to the rooftop and staged. Once again, the clearing team descended the staircase and cleared down to the second deck. Gasoline was poured down the second story staircase leading to the first floor and immediately followed by an incendiary grenade, a fragmentation grenade, and multiple smoke grenades. The clearing unit returned to the rooftop.

Under the direction of 1stLt Carroll, 3rd Platoon fired three AT-4 (Anti-Tank) rockets at key points on the first floor of the house in an attempt to force the enemy to flee into the open. 1stLt Carroll, Capt Hudson, and the remainder of the rooftop elements then jumped over to a nearby wall and descended to ground level. As the fire began to spread through the first floor, 1stLt Carroll linked up with 2ndLt Watson. They both crept up to a first floor window and threw in one hand grenade. Once the grenades exploded inside, an insurgent ran into the front courtyard and attempted to escape through the open gate. He was immediately hit and killed by a hail of gunfire from elements of Weapons and 3rd Platoon. A second insurgent also attempted to escape the smoke and flames by jumping a wall behind the house but was shot and killed by LCpl William Davis from 3rd Platoon. The fire dissipated approximately 30 minutes later and Capt Hudson with Broadsword 81 entered the first floor of the house, cleared it room-to-room, and killed three remaining enemy insurgents. During the sweep of the house, Broadsword 81 discovered numerous loaded RPGs, one RPK medium machine gun, several AK-47 assault rifles, and a handful of grenades.

[Mejia6.mov “we could see 2 of the 3…”]

The body of Capt Gannon was found in the front room of the first floor. Circumstances leading to his death are speculative only, but to the best of the battalion’s knowledge, the following are believed to the final events of Capt Gannon’s life: Due to the fact that 1stLt Carroll used an adjoining series of walls and nearby rooftops along the back side of the property to climb onto the roof of the two-story house, the interior of the house was never searched and therefore it was unknown at the time that there were insurgents inside. It was mere coincidence that it also happened to be an enemy position. The building was picked not only because it was nearby but also because it had the tallest roof in the neighborhood and offered the best vantage point. It is believed that Capt Gannon, returning south from the SMAW and TOW shots and following in trace of the assault section, saw 1stLt Carroll on the rooftop and wanted to join his Platoon Commander overlooking the battlefield. The dirt road Capt Gannon traveled on ran along the front side of the house so the series of walls and adjoining rooftops that 1stLt Carroll used was not available to him. However, the front door was. Most likely using a small gate along the front wall of the house, Capt Gannon stepped into the yard. When he entered the front room of the house looking for the staircase he stepped into an ambush. It is likely that the gunfire that Cpl Gibson heard and sought to investigate was from that very ambush. As Cpl Gibson neared the house and passed the open gate leading into the front courtyard he was shot from inside the house. Still at this time, the remainder of the assault section, as well as the rest of the platoon, was unaware of the enemy presence inside the house. It just did not seem likely that there were would be enemy inside a friendly observation post. This sequence of events, if true, explains why LCpl’s Smith and Valdez pulled Cpl Gibson into what they expected to be a safe and secure courtyard only to also be ambushed and killed.

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By 1200 hours, Lima Company and its reinforcements, like CAAT, are running low on ammunition in the town. Weapons Platoon, now reinforced by other elements from Lima, is fighting the insurgents in the stronghold house.

“Sir,” Lieutenant Neal says to Major Schreffler, “I don’t have a good feeling about this. No one knows where the six is. I can’t get him on the hook. Something is not right. I don’t like this at all.”

“Roger that,” replied Major Schreffler. “I am going to continue to work with Battalion. Continue to focus on the fight in your zone. Keep me updated on what the company is doing.” In the efficient language of a military unit in action, Schreffler, who was responsible for planning and operations for the 1200-Marine Battalion, could not lose his focus to become overly involved with Neal, who was second in command of the 150-Marine Company at one edge of his battle space. Neal had been one of Schreffler’s students at Infantry Officers’ Course, and Schreffler had commanded Lima Company in the previous year’s invasion of Iraq — and he was Godfather to Rick Gannon’s kids — yet, all of that was kept below the surface of professional, mission oriented communications.

“Roger that,” confirmed Neal. “Good to go.” Neal had limited communications and situational awareness in the Command Post. But, he did know that Lima 3d Platoon, Lima Weapons Platoon, Broadsword [the call sign for the Recon Platoon], and CAAT [the attached heavy weapons platoon commanded by Lt Moore] have all consolidated on one position — the stronghold house where they worked together to kill the insurgents. Captain Sofka, callsign “2 Pam,” the FAC (Forward Air Controller) and Captain Hudson, the Recon Platoon Commander, known as Broadside Actual, were pushing Neal to get out into the town.

“We can’t really do much,” argued Hudson to Neal, who was technically junior to him, “But I got to get out there with my guys. I have a little bit more ass [combat power] that I can provide to them.” The Recon Platoon Commander was expressing the bias of Marine Commanders to be with their Marines, especially while in contact.

Similarly, Captain Sofka, who also outranked Lieutenant Neal, argued, “I can’t control air from where I am. I need to be up where Weapons Platoon is located.”

Neal rejected both Captains. “We have enough Marines out there forward. Let’s not send out more.”

Hudson and Sofka continued to prod Neal to go out into town, personally.

Neal finally relented. “You can head out if you honestly feel you can link up with Weapons Platoon and have a positive effect. But stay off of Market street [the main street out into town] because it is a hot spot. It has a lot of IEDs, I don’t think it has been cleared all the way through.”

The two Captains, who worked together often because the Recon Platoon had more Marines who regularly called in air support than the rest of Lima Company, headed out into town. Neal had made his cautionary point to Sofka, but Sofka didn’t relay the warning to Hudson. Five minutes outside the wire at Camp Husaybah, Captain Hudson’s vehicle was hit by an IED while he was traveling down Market toward the main elements of Lima Company — 3d Platoon, Weapons, Recon, and CAAT — out on the East edge of town. Fortunately, Hudson’s vehicle took minimal damage. Neal, however, was livid because he felt like his guidance was being ignored. He fumed, didn’t I tell you guys not to go straight through town. The word had not been passed from Sofka to Hudson.

In the surgical, antiseptic language of the military, the word that Captain Gannon had been killed in action filtered back into the Lima Command Post in Camp Husaybah with the word that Gannon was “routine.” If he was an “urgent” casualty, it would indicate that he was still alive and needed to receive medical attention right away. But instead, Lieutenant Neal and Major Schreffler were informed that Gannon was “routine,” that his body could be routinely moved through the military system to dispose of fallen Marines. Dominique Neal, a First Lieutenant and Second in Command of Lima Company had just become the first Marine Officer to assume command of a Rifle Company due to the combat death of the Commanding Officer since Vietnam. Neal immediately got onto the Tactical Radio Net and said, “Lima Five is now Lima Six.”

Mejia7.mov [00:05:02 – Mejia, Link see body of Capt Gannon, carry it at request of Lt, at the site of Capt Gannon’s death]

Husaybah – 3:00 pm: Maj George Schreffler III, the Battalion Operations Officer (callsign Blade 3) was located at Camp Husaybah in the Lima Company Command Post when the events of the day first began to unfold. Due to situation on the battlefield and growing size and scale of an upcoming battalion attack to clear Husaybah, Maj Schreffler transitioned the Lima Command Post into the Battalion’s forward Combat Operations Center (COC) and assumed the duties of Battalion headquarters for the remainder of the battle. Maj Schreffler then passed to all unit commanders in the field that numerous intelligence reports indicated that there were approximately 300 insurgents massing in the city of Husaybah.

[Neal12a.mov… schreffler reaction to “Gannon Routine KIA” continue operating… Neal changes callsign to “Lima 6”]

Lima 3, Lima 4, CAAT Blue, and Broadsword 81 & 52 (Force Recon) departed the Husaybah-Karabilah Triangle and pushed to the intersection of East End and Market Street in northeast Husaybah in order to link up with the rest of 3rd Battalion for a follow-on mission to attack to clear Husaybah. At approximately 4:00 pm, CAAT White 1, Weapons Company escorted Kilo Company from Camp Al Qa’im to Husaybah. Upon their arrival and subsequent movement south down East End Rd the unit was hit by an IED attack approximately two blocks north of Route Train. As the Kilo Company rifle platoons dismounted from their 7-tons they received RPG and small arms fire from a series of alleyways to the west. The Kilo platoons returned fire, established an attack position along East End Rd, and waited for the signal to commence their westward assault through Husaybah.

[Mejia7.mov, 00:05:02 – Mejia, Link see body of Capt Gannon, carry it at request of Lt, at the site of Capt Gannon’s death, Mejia8.mov]

Husaybah – 4:15 pm: Battalion headquarters at Camp Husaybah received a call from a reliable intelligence source in southwest Husaybah who reported the following: (1) Within the last 24 hours approximately 100 insurgents had moved into the city, (2) The insurgents had instructed the local Iraqis to stay indoors, (3) There would be a significant gunfight and the insurgents promised to drive the U.S. Marine presence out of the city by nightfall, and (4) They were using a home in southwest Husaybah as a headquarters for one of their terrorist cells. 1stLt Dominique Neal, formerly the Lima Company Executive Officer and now the acting Commanding Officer due to Capt Gannon’s death, tasked 2nd Platoon, Lima Company (Lima 2) and 1st Platoon, Kilo Company (Kilo 1) to maneuver to the suspected enemy safe house, clear it, and capture or destroy any insurgents. Lima 2, commanded by 2ndLt Aaron Awtry, would be the cordon element followed by Kilo 1 as the search element, led by 1stLt Dave Fleming. At 4:30pm, the two platoons, under the command of 1stLt Neal, departed friendly lines and moved south along the western portion of Husaybah – a housing development known as Area 440. The platoons moved by foot with one TOW Humvee and one 7-ton truck in trail. These trucks were the only working vehicles available at the time. 2nd Platoon was in the lead and crossed to the south side of the railroad tracks before heading east and taking advantage of the limited cover provided by the 3-foot berms of the railroad tracks to the immediate north.

[Bellmont1.mov]

[Ruckel1.mov, Ruckel2.mov]

[Neal12a.mov]

As Lima 2 neared the intersection of West End and Route Train, they began to take sporadic small arms fire from both a mosque in Area 440 and from a row of houses to the northeast along West End Rd. Lima 2 was dispersed in column over a 700-meter distance and continued to push east to a point where the railroad tracks expanded and the berms widened offering greater observation to the northeast. At this point 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon (Lima 22), led by Cpl Rahim Heath received heavy RPG and small arms fire coming from the house that they were assigned to clear and from the radio station to the south. An RPG slammed into the railroad berm and exploded, critically injuring LCpl Lonnie Hughes with shrapnel wounds to both arms and both legs. The blast also injured LCpl Christopher Nims, the squad’s assistant automatic rifleman, with shrapnel to his left arm. Cpl Heath immediately moved forward and directed covering fire until he could provide initial first aid to the casualties.

[Ruckel2.mov, Ruckel5.mov]

[Neal12a.mov]

[Neal13a.mov]

LCpl Michael Stewart stood on a railroad embankment and returned fire to the north with his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in an effort to suppress the enemy and facilitate treating the casualty. The enemy unit closed to within 50 meters of 2nd Squad’s position before LCpl Stewart’s direct fire effectively neutralized the RPG team. LCpl Stewart continued to provide intense and accurate fire from his exposed position until he was wounded by a gunshot wound to the left side of his face. Cpl Heath then moved forward and took up LCpl Stewart’s position, providing covering fire for the remainder of 2nd Squad. LCpl Nims, although wounded, provided first aid for LCpl Stewart until the platoon corpsman, HM Eduardo MartinezDiaz, who was in the rear of the column could make his way to the front. At this point, 2ndLt Awtry and LCpl Matthew Haugan, the platoon’s radio operator, also moved forward from the middle portion of the column under enemy fire and arrived at the front lines. 2ndLt Awtry assessed the situation, continued to direct suppressive fires on the enemy positions, and contacted 1stLt Fleming to arrange for a MEDEVAC for the three casualties.

[Ruckel2.mov, Ruckel3.mov]

1st Platoon, Kilo Company, with 1stLt Neal and the two vehicles, followed in trace of 2nd Platoon, Lima Company by ten minutes. While Lima 2 was receiving contact from three positions, Kilo 1 moved to the southwest corner of Area 440 and began clearing west to east. Upon hearing word of Lima 2’s wounded, 1stLt Fleming deployed the two vehicles to Lima 2’s position for ground MEDEVAC as HM MartinezDiaz, with SSgt Matthew St. Pierre, traversed the entire 700 meter distance under fire, moving from the rear of 2nd Platoon’s units to the front lines where the casualties were located. Once on scene, HM MartinezDiaz provided professional medical care and personal encouragement while under heavy rifle, machine gun, and RPG fire from three directions. As the two MEDEVAC vehicles traversed the open terrain, both came under significant enemy fire. LCpl Samuel Simmons, manning the 7-ton’s mounted machine gun was shot in the buttocks by small arms fire and the 7-ton’s fuel tank was punctured by an RPG round that fortunately did not explode. [Neal12a.mov] Cpl Cervantes’ Humvee returned fire with its mounted 240G medium machine gun in an attempt to suppress the enemy positions, but the amount of enemy fire directed at the two vehicles was substantial enough to force them to break contact, return to friendly lines, and get vehicles more capable of extracting the casualties. [Ruckel4.mov, Ruckel5.mov]

Ruckel1.mov
Ruckel2.mov
Ruckel3.mov
Ruckel4.mov
Ruckel5.mov
Ruckel6.mov
Ruckel7.mov
Ruckel8.mov
Ruckel9.mov
Ruckel10.mov
Ruckel11.mov

Kurt Bellmont did not go out into Husaybah with 3d Platoon. He was sick in the early morning of April 17, but he started to feel better throughout the day. Staff Sergeant Wilder was in the living area, passing the word about the ongoing combat throughout the day. He came back into the squad bay, and asked Bellmont, “How are you feeling?”

“If I can, I’d like to get back out there,” responded Bellmont, who felt bad about abandoning his platoon while they were in combat.

“Lieutenant Neal is the new CO. Captain Gannon is KIA,” Staff Sergeant Wilder informed him. The news of Gannon’s death sank in. Wilder continued, “The new CO is about to go out. Do you want to be his body guard?”

Bellmont answered, “Yeah, absolutely.”

“OK. You’re going to be his RO [Radio Operator] and body guard all at the same time.”

Bellmont started to get his gear together. He was glad to be able to get back out into town since he felt worthless, sitting behind.

Kurt Bellmont’s desire to immediately get back into the fight alongside his unit is one of the characteristic qualities of Combat Marines. Another of those qualities of Marine Leaders was on display among the Company and Battalion leadership in reaction to Gannon’s death — a bias for action. Schreffler — who was Godfather to Rick Gannon’s kids — and Neal — who considered Gannon a friend as well as a Commanding Officer — took almost no time for personal reaction when they heard the news of his death. Schreffler reportedly hung his head for a second or two, then continued to coordinate the battle via the Battalion Tactical Radio Frequency — he was third in command of the Battalion, and the primary plans officer for the unit. The Battalion staff passed word to Neal that there was an intelligence item indicating that another insurgent strong point house was located in the Southwest of the city. The Marine Base, located on the Northeast periphery of the city, was the target of a coordinated insurgent attack with multiple strong points to support hundreds of insurgents who had massed in the city amid the increasingly friendly population. Neal started planning for a 2-platoon attack on that insurgent strong point house at the Southwest of the city.

At the same time, Schreffler was coordinating Lieutenant Colonel Lopez decision to gather the rest of the Battalion, including 2 platoons from Lima, the CAAT Team and the rest of Kilo Company, on the Eastern edge of Husaybah for the purpose of conducting as sweep from East to West through the town. First, however, Battalion was setting a cordon around the city with, among other units, Recon in order to seal the city and make sure that no insurgents escaped the pending sweep. Lieutenant Colonel Lopez would sweep East to West with two Rifle Companies on line and the CAAT Vehicles moving down the roads. Lieutenant Neal, now Commanding Officer of Lima Company in Camp Husaybah, would conduct an immediate 2-platoon attack by moving South out of the Camp through an area that the Marines had termed, “440 Area” — basically, one story homes — then West to the insurgent strong point house that had been recently identified. In other words, the Marines would have what they called a “Geometry of Fires” problem — in plain English, Neal would be attacking towards the West, while Lopez would be attacking to the East, through the same city, separated by only several kilometers — and by time. This is why in Neal’s immediate attack, time was of the essence.
“You’re going to need a medic,” Schreffler noted to Neal. Schreffler was fighting the Battalion, moving units around to set the cordon, answering up to Lopez, confirming the placement of support for the sweep. But, he was also an experience Company Commander who had commanded Lima for a year before Gannon took over. Neal got Doc Purviance, a Navy Corpsman assigned to the Headquarters Platoon, while he briefed Lima 2, commanded by Lt Awtry, a Mustang (former Enlisted) officer, and Kilo 1, for the coming attack. These two platoons were the last Rifle Platoons left in the base. When they emptied into town, the entire base would be out in town, in the middle of the fight.

Second Platoon under Awtry lead the 2-platoon column Southward out of Camp Husaybah. Neal, with his small command element of Bellmont and Doc Perviance, traveled between the two platoons. Second Platoon moved South of Route Train — literally a railroad track that ran the entire length of the Southern edge of Husaybah, and started to turn to the West, aiming for the target house. As Second Platoon’s lead fire team crossed back North of Route Train, the 4-Marine Team was hit by small arms fire from insurgents in the target house.

Bellmont describes what happened next in among the leadership element with Neal and the Corpsman: “We were crossing a big open area, a big danger area. This is something that always gets me. When an officer is moving in a formation, they usually just float around… well, they always end up at the front because they are moving individually because the rest of the squad is doing their bumping and bounding and they take a while to move. Well, he kept making his way to the front, and I kept trying to hold him back because all right that first team goes across then the bad guys know we’re there, second team goes across, that’s when the bad guys ready to start shooting. Well, he managed to work his way all the way up to being the second team. And I was with him. It was myself and Doc and the CO. The first team went all the way across, not a problem. And I was like, ‘well let’s hold back a little bit sir.’”

Neal, the former Naval Academy sprinter and Sacred Heart High School cornerback, responded, “No, we’ll go on this one.”

Bellmont continues his narrative, “And we started running and we got about halfway across a 250 meter danger area. And about half way across we started getting shot at with rounds ricocheting near our feet. And they were behind me, so I looked back, and they were both laying on the ground so I hit the ground too. I ran behind what little micro terrain there was, which was a 4 inch curb, so I went and laid by that curb which was where they were laying. I threw a couple of rounds in the direction of where it was coming to suppress their fires. And then I yelled for the team in front of us, and the team behind us was not shooting and I could not understand why, so I yelled for both teams to suppress for us, then I had Captain Neal go first, then Doc, then they suppressed for me while I finished the way across.”

Neal and his command element pushed along with the Kilo platoon following in trace of Awtry’s Lima Two. Tracing a map of Husaybah, Neal recognized the island where he and Bellmont had been pinned down by enemy fire. “While we got pinned down,” he says, “that was enough fire for Second Platoon — because they were also taking fire from this general position [from insurgents located outside of Husaybah, South of Route Train], from the position [of the insurgent stronghold house at the Southwest of the city], and down this axis [parallel with the Western edge of the city].” Awtry’s Lima Two, in other words, was pinned down by insurgent fire from three, mutually supporting positions.

“When we took the brunt of the fire [from the insurgents on the Western edge of the city],” continues Neal, discussing the command element crossing the danger area that Bellmont described, “it allowed [Second Platoon] to gain fire superiority [against the insurgents located outside of Husaybah, South of Route Train], and fire superiority here [at the insurgent stronghold house at the Southwest of the city,] calling in mortars [to hit the target house].”

The Marine Corps defines “combined arms” as using one weapon to make the enemy vulnerable to another weapon system. What happened at this juncture of the attack is probably why Neal would rank Awtry as his top Lieutenant in fitness reports evaluating all of his direct reports. Awtry, an experienced former Enlisted Marine who became an officer — a Mustang — had several injured Marines in his lead fire team, and he was under fire from three positions. One of the insurgent positions, however, began to fire instead on Neal and his Radio Operator and Corpsman. Awtry immediately called for accurate mortar fire from the Lima Company 60mm mortar section located in Camp Husaybah.

Awtry would have moved up from his position, possibly behind his first squad, also with his radio operator near by. He would have called for fire:

“Lima Mortars, this is Lima Two, adjust fire, over.” [Ruckel3.mov, Hogan RO, casevac, 81mm Call for Fire]

“Lima Two, this is Lima Mortars, adjust fire, over.”

He would have given the Mortar section a grid, or more likely, called the mission in from a pre-registered target point.

Neal describes the effect of the mortar mission called by Awtry: “It hit right on that building, and it went up in smoke. The fire ceased [from the target building]. So, we were able to maintain fire suppression [on the insurgent position South and outside of Husaybah].” Part of Awtry’s Second Platoon would be firing their M-16A4 Rifles, M-249 SAWs, and M-203 Grenade Launchers at the insurgents South and outside of Husaybah near the train station. The direct hit by the mortars called in by Awtry seems to have tipped the balance of the attack in favor of Lima Company in the first combat action commanded by Neal as Commanding Officer.
After the mortar mission scored a direct hit on the insurgent target house, resulting in a smoke plume, Neal and the Kilo Platoon moved along the road on the Southern edge of Husaybah towards the target house. The combination of the mortar mission and the continued suppressive fire from Second Platoon toward the insurgents South and outside of Husaybah “gave us enough umph, or clearance, through the MSR [Main Supply Route on the South of Husaybah], literally going from house to house, shooting and moving from house to house.”

“We fired up in here,” Neal continued, pointing to the road on the Western edge of Husaybah. “And when we got closer, we took a few more shots from buildings in here,” Neal points to buildings in the city, immediately adjacent to the target house, which was already burning from the mortar mission. “And we did fire back. Battalion was still working on sweeping through,” Neal motions across the town, indicating the on-line movement by several platoons from East to West, which Lopez was planning on the opposite side of town.

“Now, after the mortars ceased here — after the fire ceased here,” Neal points to the target house, which had been hit directly by Awtry’s mortar mission, “That’s what allowed [the Kilo platoon and Bellmont and the Corpsman and me] to go up close because this whole building was definitely smoking. Just to make sure we killed everything in that building, that’s when Lt Fleming [commanding Kilo 1], said, ‘I’m going to put two SMAW HE rounds in there, and I am going to put two AT-4 Rounds in there.’ A SMAW is a “Shoulder Mounted Assault Weapon” designed to be used against bunkers and light armored vehicles. It fires an 83mm rocket with a dual fuze, designed to delay if it hits a soft target, like a bunker. AT-4s are the standard, 84mm anti tank rocket carried by Marines. The Marines were applying combined arms in the situation by using the effects of the mortars to make the enemy vulnerable to the rockets.

“That’s exactly what they did,” recalls Neal. “I stayed close in this building where I could get eyes on,” Neal points to a building almost adjacent to the target house. “I saw his Assault guys fire into those buildings, then we pushed up.” [[Neal3.mov… we drew enough fire for Lima2 to manuever…]

Neal then ordered Kilo 1 to cease fire while maintaining observation towards the surrounding building in Husaybah as well as toward the threat areas South and outside of Husaybah, since they had seized the target house. When Kilo 1 and Neal occupied the target house, Awtry’s Second Platoon collapsed his support by fire position South and outside of Husaybah. Awtry’s Marines moved into the target house too, while still maintaining observation south of Husaybah, the areas where they had received fire from as well.

Lieutenant Neal, Staff Sergeant St Pierre, the Lima 2 Platoon Sergeant, and Lieutenant Awtry met briefly. “We were happy to see each other,” recalls Neal. “That was pretty interesting,” Neal remembers saying. The Marines continued to sweep through the adjacent buildings, rounding up casualties. “We put so much overwhelming firepower in this small complex here, keeping our fires oriented South, that some of the local Iraqi civilians actually gave up some viable intel on where the insurgents were hiding out. So, essentially, the locals there, the fence sitters, dimed out some of the insurgents. We picked up 5 insurgents and brought them back with us.” Neal’s description of the the locals as “fence sitters” — recorded years apart from an interview with an entirely different Lima Commanding Officer who characterized April 04 as a tipping point — reinforces the idea that the Lima Marines were, in fact, fighting a tactical action amid a Tipping Point in which Al Qaeda was being accepted more broadly by the Iraqi population in Anbar.

Neal3.mov [got it]


Bellmont1.mov [got it]

Northeast Husaybah – 5:00 pm: The Battalion Commander, LtCol Matthew Lopez, was in the final stages of establishing a tight cordon around the city of Husaybah, focusing on the four major street corners and cutting off all ingress and egress routes. The battalion was spread from north to south along East End road and made final preparations to attack west across Husaybah. 1st Force Recon Company (with other defense agencies) took the four blocks north of Market Street. Lima Company took Market Street and the five blocks to the south; split between Weapons Platoon (Market Street and two blocks south) and 3rd Platoon (the next three blocks south). Kilo Company took all remaining blocks south to Route Train divided amongst 4th Platoon – covering Lima 3’s left flank, 2nd Platoon – which shared the area between Phase Line (PL) St. Ides and PL Schlitz with 4th Platoon, and 3rd Platoon -which took PL Schlitz to Route Train. CAAT Red, Weapons Company manned blocking positions along East End from Market Street in the north to Route Train in the south.

Weapons Platoon, India Company (India 4), Kilo Company Headquarters Platoon, elements from 1st Platoon, India Company, and CAAT Blue C, Weapons Company were all involved in securing LZ Eagle in eastern Husaybah in order to protect the battalion casualty collection point (CCP) and a helicopter landing zone (LZ) for the upcoming attack through Husaybah. CAAT Blue C, led by Cpl Kristopher Benson, provided convoy security from Camp Al Qa’im to LZ Eagle and upon arrival conducted roving mounted patrols in and around LZ Eagle in order to help secure both the LZ and a series of houses to the south where sporadic enemy fire was originating. India 4 and the elements from India 1 were all under the command of 1stLt Dave Wright. They assisted CAAT Blue C by providing a dismounted force to secure both the LZ and the surrounding houses. LZ Eagle’s perimeter security was enhanced by the addition of Truck Platoon Marines and elements of Kilo headquarters, under the command of 1stLt Rudy Salcido, Kilo Company’s Executive Officer (callsign Kilo 5). Kilo headquarters established a defensive position around LZ Eagle and along East End toward Route Train and tied in physically with CAAT White. Once the surrounding homes had been cleared, India 4 took up security positions to the east and established an observation post looking to the north along East End Rd.

First Platoon, India Company (India 1), led by 2ndLt Ryan Gordinier, was the Battalion Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and was co-located with LtCol Lopez on the corner of East End and Market Street. Upon receiving word that Lima 2 had one failed ground MEDEVAC attempt and was in dire need of a second, the Battalion Commander tasked 2ndLt Gordinier to lend assistance to Lima 2. 2ndLt Gordinier left two vehicles on scene in order to continue to provide security for the battalion headquarters element and, with the help of Maj Ezra Carbins, the head of the Battalion Civil Affairs Group (CAG), took India 1’s two remaining vehicles and sped west down Market Street towards Camp Husaybah.

Southwest Husaybah – 5:15 pm: In need of more firepower, 2ndLt Awtry called CAAT Blue’s 81mm mortar section at Camp Husaybah and requested an immediate mortar fire mission to suppress the enemy fire. The target house was the primary impact point and the enemy position near the radio station was the secondary impact point. Kilo 1 held their position as Sgt Joseph Cole and Sgt Harnett sighted in their tubes and initiated their barrage on the target house. [Neal12a.mov][Neal12b.mov, Awtry, prior enlisted Staff NCO, commanding 2nd Platoon, coordinated with Sgt Harnett, 0341, mortarman, commanding CAAT Blue Alpha with 81mm mortars, both Fleming and Awtry coordinated with Harnett to set up tubes on the target house; awtry, can I get the tubes dialed in on that target? neal: yes, that’s a good idea. atk was not event driven, but time driven because of Bn pushing E to West. Synched up really well by the end, geometry of fires already set in, owed to Major Schreffler; owed to NCO and junior officers.] The third round was a direct hit that sent a huge fireball skyward followed by a massive black smoke cloud – believed to be the result of a propane tank adjacent to the house igniting from the mortar explosion. Several more rounds impacted in the immediate vicinity before Sgt Cole and Sgt Harnett shifted their tubes and lobbed mortar rounds onto the enemy positions in the vicinity of the radio station. At this time, Misfit 21, a mixed section of attack helicopters consisting of one AH-1W Cobra and one UH-1N Huey, arrived on station and, after a quick situation update, made several attack runs against the insurgents near the radio station. They fired rockets, 20mm cannon, and a .50 cal heavy machine gun to silence that enemy position. 2ndLt Awtry then directed the 81mm mortars to resume firing at the target house as Cpl Heath, 2nd Squad leader, attacked forward across the railroad tracks under enemy fire in order to position himself to better direct his squad’s and the rest of 2nd Platoon’s fires onto the target house. The combination of attack helicopter and 81mm mortar fire pounding the two enemy positions broke the back of the enemy and allowed Kilo 1 to maneuver into the objective area. [Ruckel1.mov, Ruckel3.mov, Ruckel4.mov, Ruckel5.mov… psyops vehicle, weapons free, LtCol Lopez, Ruckel6.mov] [Neal3.mov… we drew enough fire for Lima2 to manuever…][Neal12a.mov, Neal12b.mov][Neal13a.mov, awtry best plt cmdr in co, 1st LAR, praise for awtry, did not fire into city, controlled geometry of fires, prior enlisted fleming too, cross-talked really well, talked to clancy RO for Kilo 1]

1stLt Fleming’s 1st Platoon, Kilo Company resumed their movement east through Area 440 with Lima Company headquarters elements. Cpl Charles Carter led 1st Squad along the south side of Area 440 and held at the water tank located in the middle of the southern boundary of Area 440. In an effort to relieve pressure from the enemy fire directed at Lima 2, Cpl Austin Clancy pushed his 2nd Squad in pairs across the south side of Area 440. Upon reaching West End Road, the unit came under a heavy volume of fire originating from the north. LCpl Keith Darlington and LCpl Steven Walls climbed on top of a vehicle, established an M249 SAW firing position, and suppressed the enemy positions to the north allowing Cpl Clancy to push his squad east across West End Road. Cpl Clancy’s squad then established an ideal firing position and continually suppressed the target house with a heavy amount of machine gun fire in order to support another ground MEDEVAC. Kilo 1’s movement through Area 440 and repositioning along Lima 2’s left flank, along with the base of fire being provided by each platoon, created an opportunity to attempt a second MEDEVAC to extract the three wounded Marines.

[Ruckel3.mov, Ruckel5.mov, Ruckel6.mov]

[Neal13a.mov, why stayed with Kilo 1, became FOME, fluid situation, leaders recon went out the window, go with flow, destroy the objective]

Earlier at Camp Husaybah, a makeshift four-vehicle convoy had been hastily assembled. The convoy consisted of one ambulance, Cpl Cervantes’ Humvee from CAAT Blue, and two up-armored Humvees from India Company that had arrived at the firm base only moments earlier – commanded by 2ndLt Gordinier and Maj Carbins, respectively. The four-vehicle convoy departed the firm base for Lima 2’s position in order to reattempt the ground MEDEVAC mission. On arrival, the convoy noticed that Lima 2 was pinned down behind an embankment just south of the railroad tracks and taking heavy fire from the northeast and sporadic fire from their rear (to the south). Although Kilo 1 and Lima 2 provided suppressive fires, the four-vehicle convoy received direct enemy fire throughout their movement to the site of the casualties. As the vehicles approached closer the volume of enemy fire increased. LCpl Phelps positioned his CAAT Blue Humvee as Cpl Cervantes engaged the target building with his M240G medium machine gun. LCpl David Bednorz positioned his India 1 Humvee and allowed Cpl Marlin Adams to engage the target house with his .50 cal heavy machine gun. The accurate fire from the pair of mounted machine guns silenced the enemy fire long enough to load LCpl’s Nims, Hughes, and Stewart aboard the ambulance. Cpl Cervantes and Cpl Adams continued their suppressive fires as the convoy departed towards the west side of Area 440 with follow-on movement to LZ Eagle in eastern Husaybah for aerial MEDEVAC.

[Ruckel4.mov, Ruckel5.mov, Ruckel6.mov]

With the MEDEVAC complete, the cordon mission was replaced with a two-pronged assault with Kilo 1 as the northern element and Lima 2 as the southern element. 2ndLt Awtry reorganized his platoon for the upcoming assault on the target house and moved his three squads through a long series of previously dug Iraqi fighting positions just south of the railroad tracks in order to provide his Marines cover. The three squads took turns bounding and delivering suppressive fire in order to cover each other’s movement during their repositioning and to keep visual contact with Kilo 1 elements as both units pressed the attack. Lima 2’s 3rd Squad swept east along the southern edge of Husaybah towards the target house as 1st and 2nd Squads moved into the housing complex where the target house was located and cleared both sides of the street one block south of the objective. Cpl Heath and 2nd Squad cleared the north side as Cpl Shannon Barrs and 1st Squad cleared the south. LCpl Jeremy Rogers, 3rd Squad Leader, positioned his squad along the southern flank of the housing complex in order to establish a blocking position and provide security for the remaining two squads during their sweep.

[Ruckel4.mov, Ruckel5.mov, Ruckel6.mov]

[Neal12b.mov]

1stLt Fleming ordered Cpl Clancy to lead his squad east along Route Train and begin the assault on the target house. LCpl Christopher Wiese and LCpl Marco Torres initiated the assault by each firing an AT-4 rocket into the house, which was now on fire as a result of the earlier propane tank explosion. [Neal12b.mov][Neal13a.mov] Cpl Clancy’s squad then entered and cleared the structure. Cpl Raymond Clevenger and PFC Hilario Duran discovered multiple brass ammunition casings on the rooftop and detained six individuals – three of which were positively identified as shooters. With the assault of the target house complete, 2nd Platoon, Lima Company moved and established a blocking position south of Area 440 in order to prevent the escape of enemy forces to the south or west as the battalion attacked from East End Rd to West End Rd. 1st Platoon, Kilo Company remained in place at the housing complex on the southern edge of Husaybah and awaited link-up with 2ndLt Burke and 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company (Kilo 3), which was part the battalion’s westward attack.

[Ruckel6.mov]

[Neal13a.mov]

Northeast Husaybah – 5:15 pm: LtCol Lopez commenced his attack west through 31 blocks of urban street-to-street and house-to-house fighting. 1stLt Carroll was appointed as the commander of the detachment consisting of Weapons Platoon and 3rd Platoon (Lima Company) for the upcoming attack. 1stLt Carroll employed close air support (CAS) at key phase lines (PL Mickey’s and PL Colt 45) to destroy enemy positions and allow the battalion to continue the assault. Additionally, India 1 was attached to Lima 4 for the sweep west. PFC Kenneth Teausant from 3rd Platoon, Lima Company observed an enemy insurgent pop outside a building and attempt to engage a group of Marines with an AK-47. PFC Teausant immediately opened fire with his M-16 and killed the assailant. Lima 3, Lima 4, and India 1 continued west and the enemy resistance intensified as they fought through numerous enemy defensive positions. 2ndLt Gordinier and LCpl Bednorz, who had returned to northwest Husaybah once complete with their CASEVAC mission in southwest Husaybah, observed a single insurgent firing from inside a building window. 2ndLt Gordinier ordered LCpl Bednorz to engage the assailant and LCpl Bednorz stepped out into the open street, fired one 40mm grenade round from his M203 directly through the open window, and silenced the enemy shooter. By utilizing fire and movement, Lima 3, Lima 4, and India 1 were able to destroy the fortified and tiered enemy positions one by one and their combined actions resulted in approximately 15 enemy killed. Upon reaching West End Rd, Lima 3 and Lima 4 consolidated and both units returned safely to Camp Husaybah.

[Mejia8.mov, Mejia9.mov]

2nd Platoon, Kilo Company stepped off and almost immediately, two enemy insurgents hiding behind a taxicab approximately 200 meters down the street engaged 2nd Squad, led by Cpl Josh Morrow. 1stLt Jason Johnston, 2nd Platoon Commander, directed LCpl Jonathan Weldon to fire a SMAW rocket into the position and the enemy broke contact. 2nd Platoon continued westward under constant enemy sniper fire. The enemy employed shoot-and-move tactics using the streets to transit from house-to-house. Insurgents would fight from one position until all ammunition was expended. They would then walk unarmed along the streets under the guise of an innocent bystander until arriving at a secondary destination where a fresh stockpile of weapons and ammunition waited. This process was then repeated. Cpl Scott Anderson and PFC Jimmy Barnes countered this tactic by systematically engaging and killing insurgents with long-range precision fires using the ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) sights on their rifles as insurgents crisscrossed the streets. In addition, Sgt Jesse Davenport and Cpl Jacob Heal, two scout-snipers, moved from rooftop-to-rooftop and cleared a path for 2nd Platoon using long-range precision fires and acting as spotters for Cpl Anderson and PFC Barnes. Another enemy tactic 2nd Platoon observed was the propensity of insurgents to hide around the corners at intersections and wait to ambush the Marines as they passed. This tactic was countered by having M203 gunners LCpl Wyatt Mahan and LCpl Thomas Holmes fire 40mm grenades into the center of each intersection in order to clear a path before the forward element arrived. Both techniques proved extremely successful for 2nd Platoon as they fought their way through 31 blocks of urban terrain – killing approximately ten enemy fighters without taking a single casualty.

3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, led by 2ndLt Tim Burke, was on the battalion’s left flank and almost immediately after stepping off, lost all communications with 3rd Squad, his southernmost unit, led by LCpl Danny Santos. SSgt Adam Walker, Platoon Sergeant for Kilo 3, was co-located with 3rd Squad at the time. Soon after losing communication, 3rd squad (Kilo 33) was hit by a barrage of enemy fire consisting of medium machine gun, small arms, and RPG fire, as well as a flurry of hand grenades originating from two abandoned buildings to the south near Route Train. LCpl Santos was hit by shrapnel in his shoulder and abdomen when an RPG exploded nearby and although seriously wounded, continued to lead his squad throughout the engagement by firing an AT-4 rocket into the first enemy building then directing LCpl Pedro Villareal to shoot two SMAW rockets into the second enemy building – a large two-story white concrete house, commonly referred to as the castle. PFC Diego Sosachavez and SSgt Walker both received wounds from enemy fire as the squad assaulted to the south. PFC Sosachavez was shot in the leg and SSgt Walker was shot in the leg and hit in the left arm by shrapnel from an exploding grenade. When the squad reached a relatively safe position approximately 100m north of the enemy positions, LCpl Santos held up the assault, established a casualty collection point (CCP) in order to care for the wounded, and waited for assistance.

4th Platoon, Kilo Company (Kilo 4), led by 2ndLt Brian Robinson, pushed west from East End Rd with the rest of the battalion. Kilo 4’s zone of responsibility was five blocks wide and was bordered by Kilo 2 to the south and Lima 3 to the north. 1st Squad, led by Cpl Travis Struecker and 3rd Squad, led by Cpl Shaun Gibson were broken up into two fireteams each while 2nd Squad, led by LCpl Carbajal remained intact. 2ndLt Robinson traveled with 2nd Squad to best facilitate the platoon’s movement and positioned 1st Squad to the north and 3rd Squad to the south. The Platoon Sergeant, SSgt John Ferguson went with 3rd Squad on the southern flank to provide assistance and maintain connectivity with Kilo 2. Two blocks into the attack, 2nd Squad encountered an IED that failed to detonate properly. The blasting cap had fired but fortunately, it did not cause the attached artillery round to explode. During the attack, 2nd and 3rd Squads received the majority of enemy contact by way of sporadic small arms fire. 3rd Squad had one RPG fired at them that struck a telephone pole and knocked out a power line. 1st Squad encountered sporadic small arms fire that proved to be largely ineffective due to their fire and maneuver plan. At PL Colt 45, the platoon held its position in order to facilitate the use of rotor-wing close air support (CAS). Kilo 4 noticed a considerable decline in enemy fire west of PL Colt 45 and consolidated on West End Rd and established blocking positions from Trash Rd to PL St. Ides along West End Rd. During the course of their attack, Kilo 4 elements killed an estimated ten enemy.

Sgt Amos Good, leading a two-vehicle CAAT White 1 patrol on a screening mission westbound along Route Train noticed a wounded Kilo Company Marine signal for assistance one block deep in the city framework. Sgt Good organized a four-man team from his two vehicles consisting of LCpl Randall Taylor, LCpl Nicholas Sablan, and HN T.C. Hulburd to move north on foot to the wounded Marine’s position. During movement the team heard a heavy exchange of gunfire to their southwest and retraced their steps to investigate. They returned to Route Train to see their two Humvees being heavily engaged with RPGs, RPK medium machine gun, and sniper fire from the “white castle.” During CAAT White’s firefight, Cpl Jason Zearfoss was shot in the face and LCpl Raul Gonzalez was struck in the foot by an RPG round that had ricocheted off the deck but did not explode. Due to the intensity of the firefight and the vast amount of open terrain between them and the CAAT vehicles, Sgt Good’s team was unable to cross the street to lend assistance. Sgt Good directed the vehicles to break contact, exit the kill-zone, and proceed to LZ Eagle in order to aerial MEDEVAC LCpl’s Zearfoss and Gonzalez. When the vehicles left, Sgt Good and his team moved north again through the city and linked-up with 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company. LCpl Santos informed Sgt Good that he had lost all radio communications with the remainder of 3rd Platoon. Sgt Good left HN Hulburd on scene to treat the casualties as he took his team east to LZ Eagle in order to notify Company Headquarters of 3rd Squad’s communication issues and coordinate ground MEDEVAC for the three wounded. En route to LZ Eagle, Sgt Good’s team came under significant enemy small arms fire and grenade attacks from very close range – close enough that LCpl Taylor was actually struck in the head with an enemy grenade that fortunately did not explode. The team returned fire on each occasion and eventually arrived safely at LZ Eagle where Sgt Good immediately assembled a 12-man aid and litter squad and informed 1stLt Rudy Salcido, Kilo Company’s Executive Officer of 3rd Squad’s situation and his intent to extract the wounded. Once coordination was complete and preparations made, Sgt Good’s newly formed 12-man team, with GySgt Elia Fontecchio, Kilo Company Gunny, and Cpl Michael Alwart promptly re-entered the city and were once again met by enemy fire as they fought their way west back to 3rd Squad’s position. Once there, the aid and litter team placed PFC Sosachavez on a stretcher and carried him under the protection of the remainder of the squad over a kilometer until safely reaching LZ Eagle.

While 3rd Squad waited for Sgt Good’s aid and litter team to return from LZ Eagle, LCpl Santos and his Marines continued to receive small arms fire and engage the enemy with precision fires from their rooftop CCP. Also during this time period, 2ndLt Burke, in an attempt to resolve the communications issue with 3rd Squad, departed 2nd Squad’s zone with LCpl Fernando Cabeza’s fire team and moved south under enemy fire to physically link up with LCpl Santos. However, link up with 3rd Squad never occurred due to the fact that 3rd Squad had ceased their movement westward once they took casualties. LCpl Santos opted to remain in place at the CCP, care for the wounded, and not complicate the situation by continuing westward without communication with higher. By the time 2ndLt Burke turned south to establish physical link up, 3rd Platoon was well west and in front of 3rd Squad’s position. However, 2ndLt Burke did link up with 1stLt Fleming and Kilo 1 on Route Train. 1stLt Fleming reported that Kilo 1 had not seen 3rd Squad either and was unaware of their current situation or location. The assumption was made that 3rd Squad moved back to LZ Eagle once LCpl Santos realized he had lost communications. 1stLt Fleming oriented his three squads on line from south to north adjoining Kilo 3’s left flank, integrated 1st Platoon into Kilo Company’s attack, and continued to attack west.

[Mejia9.mov, Mejia10.mov]

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Southeast Husaybah – 8:00 pm: CAAT White, CAAT Red 2 led by Cpl Daniel Junco, and 3rd Squad from 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company (now led by LCpl Stamper) were tasked to assault and destroy a large two-story building along Route Train – known as the white castle – that was being used as an enemy strong point. CAAT Red 2 was charged with providing security to the south. As they maneuvered their vehicles south of the railroad tracks they were engaged heavily from the south by a combination of enemy positions in two small abandoned buildings and behind a series of dirt berms. The CAAT Red 2 vehicles immediately returned fire with their mounted machine guns and suppressed the buildings. LCpl Dameon Groves manning a Mk-19 automatic grenade launcher and LCpl Bradley Warren on a .50 cal heavy machine gun delivered an overwhelming amount of firepower as CAAT White arrived with two vehicles to assist. The enemy positions were well protected and the heavy amount of suppressive fire from the CAAT vehicles produced minimal destructive effects. To overcome this, Cpl Junco requested close air support and Misfit 21 & 22, a mixed section of attack helicopters, arrived on scene. Under the direction of Cpl Junco and guided by CAAT Red’s tracer fire, Misfit 21 and Misfit 22 engaged and completely destroyed the two buildings with rockets and gunfire then repeatedly strafed the enemy positions behind the berms with gun attacks. With the enemy neutralized, Misfit 21 returned to Camp Al Qa’im in order to quickly refuel and reload ordnance on the aircraft.

In the interim, CAAT White, CAAT Red 2, and Kilo 33 maneuvered northwest and prepared for their originally planned assault on the castle. When the two attack helicopters arrived back on scene in southeast Husaybah, CAAT Red 2 and CAAT White vehicles suppressed the castle with Mk-19 grenades and .50 cal heavy machine gun fire as 1stLt Chris McManus, CAAT White Platoon Commander, used an infrared (IR) pointer to positively identify the correct building for Misfit to engage. Once target location was confirmed, Misfit 21 engaged the building with multiple rocket attacks and gun runs. Misfit 21 checked off station and CAAT Red 2 resumed its suppression mission until dismounted elements from CAAT White and Kilo 33, led by SSgt Shelby Lasater, CAAT White Platoon Sergeant, entered and cleared the building room-to-room. One enemy KIA was found along with five captured insurgents, several AK-47 assault rifles, and hand grenades.

Husaybah – 11:00 pm: After approximately six hours of urban combat, Task Force 3/7 consolidated on West End Road, completing a successful attack to clear Husaybah from east to west without suffering a single death. Under the direction of Maj Schreffler (Blade 3), 4th Platoon, Kilo Company established a defensive perimeter oriented north-south along West End Road from Trash Rd to PL St Ides, which effectively cordoned the northwestern portion of the city as 1st Platoon, Kilo Company continued to sweep and clear west through Area 440. Lima Company withdrew to Camp Husaybah to prepare for a follow-on cordon and sweep mission the next morning. CAAT White 1 took over the cordon at the intersection of East End and Route Train and CAAT Red 2 established an east-west cordon along Trash Road north of Husaybah.

The following day, Task Force 3/7 conducted a systematic search of the city. Fifteen separate IEDs and weapons caches were located and destroyed. However, the enemy was nowhere to be found. Wounded Iraqi civilians were treated by Navy corpsmen and/or transported to the Husaybah Hospital. Additionally, Marines were posted at the hospital in order to capture insurgents being brought in for medical treatment as well as search the morgue for insurgent bodies – sixty of which were positively identified as enemy fighters. Signal intelligence and human intelligence collected in the following weeks indicated that the battalion killed over 120 of a reported 300 insurgents present in the city on 17 April – fifteen of which were reportedly high-level members of Al-Zarqawi’s terrorist cell.

[Neal13b.mov, Maj Henderson and Maj Schreffler mentored Capt Neal as CO, Lima 3/7, Neal13b.mov, sweep from North to South on east side of city, briefs platoon commanders that night, Weapons platoon 8 hours that day, out the night before. took Lima 1, Lima 2, Lima 3, Kilo 1, 2300 WO, 0500 Order, Confirmation Brief 0600. Took gannon’s order and wrote next frago. Neal13b.mov, 18th, firefights, foreign fighters, cordon tight, cornered them, Lima 3 finds major hide out spot, Lima 3 finds AK47s, RPGs, Moore CAAT, Battlefield circulation, Resupply, Medevac, Mounted/ dismounted, weapons down avenue of approach, point to point, just ahead, trigger lines, systematic, slow, methodical, looked at every single house. swept 440 on 19th, while Kilo swept Karbilah on 19th. Heaviest fighting on 17th for Bn. On 20th, back to Co level operations. Maj Schreffler stayed behind for week to make sure transition for Neal to new CO for Lima, especially as former CO as Lima 3/7. Really did not say much. Agent for speaking to Bn, and as the Ops O, saw what I saw on ground. Maj Henderson and Schreffler mentored Neal as development as Co Commander. not set up failure, set up for success.]

Staff Sergeant Carpenter arrives in Kuwait, after the delay caused by his baggage being lost.

After getting oriented on the ground, Matt Carpenter calls his wife, Beth.

“Matt, Lima Company had a really bad day,” said Beth. By that point, Matt Carpenter already knew that Wasser had been killed in action. He knew it was imperative to get up to Lima Company as soon as possible.

“What are you talking about?” said Carpenter. He had a suspicion that Rick Gannon was gone.

“There’s been a bunch of guys — some of your guys — were killed today,” replied Beth, referring to some of Carpenter’s Weapons Platoon Marines.

“Like who?” asked Carpenter.

“Valdez, Gibson, Smith, and,” Beth paused. “I can’t remember the last name.”

“Don’t tell me it was Van Leuven?” For whatever reason, Carpenter picked the name out of a roster in his brain.

“Yeah, that’s the other Marine,” confirmed Beth. “And Rick.”

“Rick!” Carpenter was shocked.

“Yeah, Rick was killed last night.”

Carpenter started yelling into the phone. Beth put Sally Gannon on the phone. Sally was cool and calm.

“Hey Matt, how are you?” asked Sally.

“Jesus, I am so sorry,” said Matt Carpenter.

“Matt, I don’t want you to worry about avenging Rick. I want you to just take care of Lima, just take care of the guys.”

After hanging up the phone, Staff Sergeant Carpenter went straight to the 1st Marine Division Representative, a Master Sergeant. “I need to get in country, like now,” Carpenter told the higher ranking Staff NCO.

“Well Devil Dog, there’s nothing going in until tomorrow, and you’re on the list. It’s kind of first come first serve, and rank dependent,” replied the Master Sergeant.

“I don’t give a fuck, you put me on a goddamned convoy. I don’t care what it takes, I have got to get into Al Qaim,” said Carpenter. “My guys just took some heavy fucking hits and I am not sitting in this fucking camp in Kuwait any more.”

“Well, you’ll just have to wait until the next flight,” said the Master Sergeant. Livid, Carpenter was ready to punch the man, rank or threat of court martial be damned.

“Well, what time do I need to be here so I can get fucking signed up on this list?” asked Carpenter.

“You’ve got to be here at zero-eight,” said the Master Sergeant.

“Roger that.” Carpenter didn’t sleep at all that night.

N 34 23’45.24″ E 40 58′ 31.08″ Camp Husaybah, Iraq
Local GMT 18 April 2004

Major General Mattis, the Commanding General of 1st Marine Division, surveyed the map as 1st Lt Neal briefed him on the previous day’s fight. Mattis then addressed the Lima Company Marines, and asked them, “Is there anything that you need?”

Several of the Weapons Platoon Marines responded, “Yeah, we want Staff Sergeant Carpenter up here, our Platoon Sergeant. He’s been sitting in Kuwait for 2 weeks.” They didn’t know that his bags never arrived. They thought Carpenter was sitting in Kuwait.

Mattis looked over at his Aide, and said, “I can do that.” The Aide-de-Camp, a field grade officer, typed an email to expedite Carpenter’s passage to Husaybah shortly thereafter.

[N 29 14’4.2″ E 47 58’22.44″ Kuwait International Airport]
0700 Local GMT 18 April 2004

Carpenter was standing at the door to the Master Sergeant an hour before the appointed time.

“Staff Sergeant, could you come here a minute?” The Master Sergeant, who had been obstinate the night before, was a little sheepish.

“Yes, Master Sergeant,” said Carpenter.

“Staff Sergeant, do you know General Mattis?” asked the Master Sergeant.

“Yeah, who the fuck doesn’t know General Mattis?” replied Carpenter.

“No, like do you know him?” asked top.

“Like a drinking buddy?”

“Yeah,” asked the Master Sergeant.

“No,” replied Carpenter.

“Well, that’s interesting.” The Master Sergeant slid his laptop around to show Carpenter the screen, which read: “Top, Staff Sergeant Carpenter and First Sergeant Martin [the Weapons Company First Sergeant, who had broken his ankle] from 3/7 will be on the next flight into Al Qaim. No one below the rank of 0-6 Colonel will bump them from this flight. Mattis.”

Holy shit, thought Carpenter to himself. He made the flight into Al Asad,

N 33 46’41.7″ E 42 26’6.9″ “The Cans” Al Asad Airbase
1100 Local GMT 18 April 2004

At Al Asad Air Base, Staff Sergeant Carpenter linked up with the 1st Marine Division Chaplain, Father Bill Devine, a Catholic priest who had been 7th Marines chaplain and who Sally and Rick. Devine was on his way to Al Qaim to spend time with the units who had just suffered casualties. Devine was a wreck, as was Carpenter. They both spent the night at Al Asad, then took a flight of Marine CH-53 Helicopters to Al Qaim the next day.

N 34 22’9.3″ E 41 05’39.3″ Al Qaim
2100 Local GMT 20 April 2004

After the helicopter flight, Carpenter took a convoy from Al Qaim into Husaybah. The Lima Marines were there to meet and greet Carpenter.

He got to Weapons Platoon, Lima Company, and discussed the events of the last few days. “I’d never seen guys who just seemed like they were gutted,” recalled Carpenter. The loss of the 4 Marines from Weapons Platoon as well as the Company Commander, Captain Gannon, was the first large loss of Marines killed in action that most Marine units had taken up to that point, with the exception of 12 Marines killed in action in Battalion 2/4 in Ramadi also in the month of April 2004.

Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav [got it]

34 23’45.06” N 40 58’28.74 E elev 179 meters Camp Gannon, Husaybah, Iraq
Local GMT 24 April 2004

Carpenter remembers Rick Gannon as a very down to earth kind of guy who gave a shit about the Marines. These are high compliments for a Marine Infantry Officer. Gannon’s death resonated through the entire Battalion.

Staff Sergeant Carpenter was walking through the Camp. He looked at the lone figure of a Marine from 2nd Platoon, a hard nosed Marine who had been in the first deployment with Lima Company. The lone Marine seemed a little depressed.

Carpenter sat beside the Marine, asking, “Hey, what’s going on buddy?”

“Staff Sergeant, I am just thinking about Captain Gannon.”

“Yeah.” Carpenter didn’t have to say very much.

“My dad didn’t play a big role in my upbringing,” continued the younger Marine. Carpenter took it in. It was uncharacteristic of most Marines to show very much emotion. But the feelings about Captain Gannon’s death rippled through the unit. “The first real father figure that I had was him,” continued the 2nd Platoon Marine. “I remember Captain Gannon coming out when I was on fire watch, like zero-two-hundred. He was just shooting the shit. He must have stood post with me for two hours asking about my family, where I was from.”

Carpenter had heard the story before, from many of the Lima Marines. In fact, he had grown to know Gannon from one of those conversations out in the Soccer Stadium in Karbala, when Gannon expressed a relentless, but sincere, interest in all of the Marines in Lima Company, regardless of rank.

Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav

N 34 22’9.3″ E 41 05’39.3″ Al Qaim
2100 Local GMT 25 April 2004

Carp is down in Al Qaim with his Weapons Platoon. The platoon is torn up emotionally. He is going through that with them. He gets the word from 3 runners to get on the satellite phone to Lima Company. He turns down the request. Then he gets called by Major Schreffler, who orders him up to Husaybah to take over Lima 1 because the platoon commander and the platoon sergeant were relieved. (45 minute)

Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav

The Battle of Husaybah, unlike the First Battle of Fallujah chronicled in accounts like West’s No True Glory, was conclusive. There were very few reporters, and no politicians micro-managed Lieutenant Colonel Lopez’ decision to clear the town through two sweeps through the town on April 17 and April 18. Whereas Fallujah caused Major General Mattis to fume that he should have been allowed to “take Vienna” in a historical allusion, Husaybah was cleared decisively. In the weeks after the Battle of Husaybah on April 17 and 18, Captain Neal would observe a marked decline in insurgent activities in his zone of action — but it was not to last.

In the larger picture, a future Lima Commanding Officer, Rory Quinn, marks April 2004, as a transition point between two major phases of his account of the entire Iraq War. April 2004 was a tipping point, and moreover, it was a Black Swan event. In the financial world, the events of a month like October, 2008, are a Black Swan event. Black Swan events are large-impact, hard-to-predict events that we try to rationalize in retrospect. 9-11 was a Black Swan event. In the Iraq insurgency, April 2004 was a juncture where the Iraqi population tipped in its support towards the insurgents, lead by Al Qaeda cells, and away from the Americans. In Quinn’s estimate, the major achievement of the Marines during the long phase that commenced in April 2004 was simply not to lose. This is consistent with the non-defeatist attitude which is an integral part of the Marine Corps culture.

Lima Company remained in its based in Camp Husaybah, patrolling and conducting observation posts (OPs) in town. As Bing West will observe in his later book, The Strongest Tribe, the far reaches of Anbar, such as Al Qaim and Husaybah, will see faster progress than cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. This faster rate of progress may be due, in part, to the decisive action taken by 3/7 in April 2004 whereas a decisive assault on Fallujah was not conducted until the end of 2004, immediately after the American presidential election. Back in the States, the unit that would replace Lima 3/7 — Bravo 1/7 — observed the actions in Husaybah, and trained accordingly, as we will see. 1/7 would begin two important patterns in the coming years in Al Qaim. First, 1/7 would make repeated deployments to the same area, thus increasing the familiarity of its key leaders with the physical and human terrain; and the battalion would start using Combined Action Platoons by its second deployment to Al Qaim. But, at the end of April, 2004, these were still trends which would take years to evolve. At the end of April 2004, Lima Company still had a rising counterinsurgency to fight.

[end of chapter]

Chapter 10 – Battle of Husaybah01 Feb
Chapter 10 – 17 Apr 04 Battle of Husaybah
[Section 1]
Neal10.mov [got it]
Neal10a.mov [got it]
Neal10b.mov [got it]
Neal11.mov [got it]
[Section 2]
In retrospect, a Lima Company Commanding Officer would be able to label the events of April, 2004, as the end of one phase of the Iraq War and the beginning of another. The juncture between these two phases would be apparent as one of several Tipping Points, in the phrase of popular author Gladwell, characterized by the accumulation of small factors which add up to a significant change. In this case, the small factors included the lack of socioeconomic programs to support the military victory in 2003, and the U.S. over-reaction to the killing of 4 Americans in Fallujah at the end of March, 2004. These accumulated factors together caused a tipping point after which the Iraqi population became generally supportive of the insurgents. But, at the time, the Lima Marines had not yet adapted, though, as we have seen, Rick Gannon — a scholar of warfare, and the son of a Marine Officer who had served in the Vietnam War — was amassing evidence in support of the view that the assumptions about the population and the insurgency were wrong.
0830 hours [dtg, grid]
“Lima 5, this is Lima 6,” said Captain Gannon to his second in command, First Lieutenant Neal over the Lima Company tactical net. “I got good news and I got bad news. The good news is we got the casualties onto the bird and we got them safe. The bad news is we’ve already lost one Marine. I’m going to go off freq to go develop the situation.”
At that point, Neal knew that most of the forces were pushed towards the Eastern part of Husaybah. Major Schreffler, the Battalion S-3 Operations Officer and the former Lima Company Commanding Officer, was popping in and out of the Combat Operations Center at Camp Husaybah. Schreffler was also going to his jump vehicle — a hummer equipped with enough radios to monitor all the available communications nets — so that he could talk to the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lopez, and the rest of the Battalion Staff. By that point, Schreffler was already developing a plan to have the Battalion reinforce Lima Company in Husaybah.
An hour went by. Usually, Captain Gannon habitually came up on the radio to give Lieutenant Neal a situation report every 15 minutes so that Neal could have full situational awareness, even though he was in the Combat Operations Center at the Lima base. Neal had only been on patrol in the city of Husaybah once or twice during the deployment so far.
Weapons Platoon had pushed deep into the East of the City, near the dividing line between Lima Company and Kilo Company’s respective zones of action. As it turned out, this was a seam in the Marine’s operational areas that the insurgents sought to exploit. For example, Medal of Honor recipient Jason Dunham, of Kilo 3/7, was mortally wounded in this seam between the two rifle companies three days earlier.
Neal noted that “company commanders have a tendency to think that whatever manuever element we are with, that’s our security, so we don’t bring security. [Captain Gannon] probably thought that same thing — that between where 3d platoon is and where weapons platoon is, it’s safe.” Weapons Platoon had cleared one building, and then hopped over to the rooftop of another building, not realizing that was another insurgent stronghold designed to be used as a fall back position for the coming attack to seize the Marine base. Captain Gannon, moving from 3d platoon to weapons platoon — to the point where he could best command his company, leading from the front as Marine Officers are taught to do — moved into the stronghold building with the Lima Weapons Platoon Marines on top. Captain Gannon was shot in that building.
Corporal Gibson, Smith, and Valdez — all of Weapons Platoon — notice the gunfire and move to link up with the Company Commander. Gibson, the first to enter the building, is shot too. Gibson reports that he has been hit over his PRR — personal radio for intra-squad communications. Weapons Platoon realizes that they have insurgents underneath them in the house. But, by that point, it’s too late. Smith and Valdez go into the stronghold house to pull out Gibson, but they are both shot too. Neal is monitoring this on the Lima Company command net, trying to figure out where the Company Commander, Captain Gannon is located. Lima 3, Brad Watson, hasn’t seen him. CAAT Blue Actual, Lieutenant Moore, hasn’t seen him. Captain Gannon had moved from where CAAT Blue had been hit and immobilized. Hours go by.
By 1200 hours, Lima Company and its reinforcements, like CAAT, are running low on ammunition in the town. Weapons Platoon, now reinforced by other elements from Lima, is fighting the insurgents in the stronghold house.
“Sir,” Lieutenant Neal says to Major Schreffler, “I don’t have a good feeling about this. No one knows where the six is. I can’t get him on the hook. Something is not right. I don’t like this at all.”
“Roger that,” replied Major Schreffler. “I am going to continue to work with Battalion. Continue to focus on the fight in your zone. Keep me updated on what the company is doing.” In the efficient language of a military unit in action, Schreffler, who was responsible for planning and operations for the 1200-Marine Battalion, could not lose his focus to become overly involved with Neal, who was second in command of the 150-Marine Company at one edge of his battle space. Neal had been one of Schreffler’s students at Infantry Officers’ Course, and Schreffler had commanded Lima Company in the previous year’s invasion of Iraq — and he was Godfather to Rick Gannon’s kids — yet, all of that was kept below the surface of professional, mission oriented communications.
“Roger that,” confirmed Neal. “Good to go.” Neal had limited communications and situational awareness in the Command Post. But, he did know that Lima 3d Platoon, Lima Weapons Platoon, Broadsword [the call sign for the Recon Platoon], and CAAT [the attached heavy weapons platoon commanded by Lt Moore] have all consolidated on one position — the stronghold house where they worked together to kill the insurgents. Captain Sofka, callsign “2 Pam,” the FAC (Forward Air Controller) and Captain Hudson, the Recon Platoon Commander, known as Broadside Actual, were pushing Neal to get out into the town.
“We can’t really do much,” argued Hudson to Neal, who was technically junior to him, “But I got to get out there with my guys. I have a little bit more ass [combat power] that I can provide to them.” The Recon Platoon Commander was expressing the bias of Marine Commanders to be with their Marines, especially while in contact.
Similarly, Captain Sofka, who also outranked Lieutenant Neal, argued, “I can’t control air from where I am. I need to be up where Weapons Platoon is located.”
Neal rejected both Captains. “We have enough Marines out there forward. Let’s not send out more.”
Hudson and Sofka continued to prod Neal to go out into town, personally.
Neal finally relented. “You can head out if you honestly feel you can link up with Weapons Platoon and have a positive effect. But stay off of Market street [the main street out into town] because it is a hot spot. It has a lot of IEDs, I don’t think it has been cleared all the way through.”
The two Captains, who worked together often because the Recon Platoon had more Marines who regularly called in air support than the rest of Lima Company, headed out into town. Neal had made his cautionary point to Sofka, but Sofka didn’t relay the warning to Hudson. Five minutes outside the wire at Camp Husaybah, Captain Hudson’s vehicle was hit by an IED while he was traveling down Market toward the main elements of Lima Company — 3d Platoon, Weapons, Recon, and CAAT — out on the East edge of town. Fortunately, Hudson’s vehicle took minimal damage. Neal, however, was livid because he felt like his guidance was being ignored. He fumed, didn’t I tell you guys not to go straight through town. The word had not been passed from Sofka to Hudson.
In the surgical, antiseptic language of the military, the word that Captain Gannon had been killed in action filtered back into the Lima Command Post in Camp Husaybah with the word that Gannon was “routine.” If he was an “urgent” casualty, it would indicate that he was still alive and needed to receive medical attention right away. But instead, Lieutenant Neal and Major Schreffler were informed that Gannon was “routine,” that his body could be routinely moved through the military system to dispose of fallen Marines. Dominique Neal, a First Lieutenant and Second in Command of Lima Company had just become the first Marine Officer to assume command of a Rifle Company due to the combat death of the Commanding Officer since Vietnam. Neal immediately got onto the Tactical Radio Net and said, “Lima Five is now Lima Six.”
[look up Neal movie with this account]
source:
http://lima37.com/Site/Interviews/2BAA72F1-E380-440B-993D-D2ADE74B4E1E.html
Mejia1.mov
Mejia2.mov
Mejia3.mov
Mejia4.mov
Mejia5.mov
Mejia6.mov
Mejia7.mov [00:05:02 – Mejia, Link see body of Capt Gannon, carry it at request of Lt, at the site of Capt Gannon’s death]
Mejia8.mov
Mejia9.mov
Mejia10.mov
Mejia11.mov
Mejia12.mov
Ruckel1.mov
Ruckel2.mov
Ruckel3.mov
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Ruckel11.mov
Kurt Bellmont did not go out into Husaybah with 3d Platoon. He was sick in the early morning of April 17, but he started to feel better throughout the day. Staff Sergeant Wilder was in the living area, passing the word about the ongoing combat throughout the day. He came back into the squad bay, and asked Bellmont, “How are you feeling?”
“If I can, I’d like to get back out there,” responded Bellmont, who felt bad about abandoning his platoon while they were in combat.
“Lieutenant Neal is the new CO. Captain Gannon is KIA,” Staff Sergeant Wilder informed him. The news of Gannon’s death sank in. Wilder continued, “The new CO is about to go out. Do you want to be his body guard?”
Bellmont answered, “Yeah, absolutely.”
“OK. You’re going to be his RO [Radio Operator] and body guard all at the same time.”
Bellmont started to get his gear together. He was glad to be able to get back out into town since he felt worthless, sitting behind.
Kurt Bellmont’s desire to immediately get back into the fight alongside his unit is one of the characteristic qualities of Combat Marines. Another of those qualities of Marine Leaders was on display among the Company and Battalion leadership in reaction to Gannon’s death — a bias for action. Schreffler — who was Godfather to Rick Gannon’s kids — and Neal — who considered Gannon a friend as well as a Commanding Officer — took almost no time for personal reaction when they heard the news of his death. Schreffler reportedly hung his head for a second or two, then continued to coordinate the battle via the Battalion Tactical Radio Frequency — he was third in command of the Battalion, and the primary plans officer for the unit. The Battalion staff passed word to Neal that there was an intelligence item indicating that another insurgent strong point house was located in the Southwest of the city. The Marine Base, located on the Northeast periphery of the city, was the target of a coordinated insurgent attack with multiple strong points to support hundreds of insurgents who had massed in the city amid the increasingly friendly population. Neal started planning for a 2-platoon attack on that insurgent strong point house at the Southwest of the city.
At the same time, Schreffler was coordinating Lieutenant Colonel Lopez decision to gather the rest of the Battalion, including 2 platoons from Lima, the CAAT Team and the rest of Kilo Company, on the Eastern edge of Husaybah for the purpose of conducting as sweep from East to West through the town. First, however, Battalion was setting a cordon around the city with, among other units, Recon in order to seal the city and make sure that no insurgents escaped the pending sweep. Lieutenant Colonel Lopez would sweep East to West with two Rifle Companies on line and the CAAT Vehicles moving down the roads. Lieutenant Neal, now Commanding Officer of Lima Company in Camp Husaybah, would conduct an immediate 2-platoon attack by moving South out of the Camp through an area that the Marines had termed, “440 Area” — basically, one story homes — then West to the insurgent strong point house that had been recently identified. In other words, the Marines would have what they called a “Geometry of Fires” problem — in plain English, Neal would be attacking towards the West, while Lopez would be attacking to the East, through the same city, separated by only several kilometers — and by time. This is why in Neal’s immediate attack, time was of the essence.
“You’re going to need a medic,” Schreffler noted to Neal. Schreffler was fighting the Battalion, moving units around to set the cordon, answering up to Lopez, confirming the placement of support for the sweep. But, he was also an experience Company Commander who had commanded Lima for a year before Gannon took over. Neal got Doc Purviance, a Navy Corpsman assigned to the Headquarters Platoon, while he briefed Lima 2, commanded by Lt Awtry, a Mustang (former Enlisted) officer, and Kilo 1, for the coming attack. These two platoons were the last Rifle Platoons left in the base. When they emptied into town, the entire base would be out in town, in the middle of the fight.
Second Platoon under Awtry lead the 2-platoon column Southward out of Camp Husaybah. Neal, with his small command element of Bellmont and Doc Perviance, traveled between the two platoons. Second Platoon moved South of Route Train — literally a railroad track that ran the entire length of the Southern edge of Husaybah, and started to turn to the West, aiming for the target house. As Second Platoon’s lead fire team crossed back North of Route Train, the 4-Marine Team was hit by small arms fire from insurgents in the target house.
Bellmont describes what happened next in among the leadership element with Neal and the Corpsman: “We were crossing a big open area, a big danger area. This is something that always gets me. When an officer is moving in a formation, they usually just float around… well, they always end up at the front because they are moving individually because the rest of the squad is doing their bumping and bounding and they take a while to move. Well, he kept making his way to the front, and I kept trying to hold him back because all right that first team goes across then the bad guys know we’re there, second team goes across, that’s when the bad guys ready to start shooting. Well, he managed to work his way all the way up to being the second team. And I was with him. It was myself and Doc and the CO. The first team went all the way across, not a problem. And I was like, ‘well let’s hold back a little bit sir.’”
Neal, the former Naval Academy sprinter and Sacred Heart High School cornerback, responded, “No, we’ll go on this one.”
Bellmont continues his narrative, “And we started running and we got about halfway across a 250 meter danger area. And about half way across we started getting shot at with rounds ricocheting near our feet. And they were behind me, so I looked back, and they were both laying on the ground so I hit the ground too. I ran behind what little micro terrain there was, which was a 4 inch curb, so I went and laid by that curb which was where they were laying. I threw a couple of rounds in the direction of where it was coming to suppress their fires. And then I yelled for the team in front of us, and the team behind us was not shooting and I could not understand why, so I yelled for both teams to suppress for us, then I had Captain Neal go first, then Doc, then they suppressed for me while I finished the way across.”
Neal and his command element pushed along with the Kilo platoon following in trace of Awtry’s Lima Two. Tracing a map of Husaybah, Neal recognized the island where he and Bellmont had been pinned down by enemy fire. “While we got pinned down,” he says, “that was enough fire for Second Platoon — because they were also taking fire from this general position [from insurgents located outside of Husaybah, South of Route Train], from the position [of the insurgent stronghold house at the Southwest of the city], and down this axis [parallel with the Western edge of the city].” Awtry’s Lima Two, in other words, was pinned down by insurgent fire from three, mutually supporting positions.
“When we took the brunt of the fire [from the insurgents on the Western edge of the city],” continues Neal, discussing the command element crossing the danger area that Bellmont described, “it allowed [Second Platoon] to gain fire superiority [against the insurgents located outside of Husaybah, South of Route Train], and fire superiority here [at the insurgent stronghold house at the Southwest of the city,] calling in mortars [to hit the target house].”
The Marine Corps defines “combined arms” as using one weapon to make the enemy vulnerable to another weapon system. What happened at this juncture of the attack is probably why Neal would rank Awtry as his top Lieutenant in fitness reports evaluating all of his direct reports. Awtry, an experienced former Enlisted Marine who became an officer — a Mustang — had several injured Marines in his lead fire team, and he was under fire from three positions. One of the insurgent positions, however, began to fire instead on Neal and his Radio Operator and Corpsman. Awtry immediately called for accurate mortar fire from the Lima Company 60mm mortar section located in Camp Husaybah.
Awtry would have moved up from his position, possibly behind his first squad, also with his radio operator near by. He would have called for fire:
“Lima Mortars, this is Lima Two, adjust fire, over.”
“Lima Two, this is Lima Mortars, adjust fire, over.”
He would have given the Mortar section a grid, or more likely, called the mission in from a pre-registered target point.
Neal describes the effect of the mortar mission called by Awtry: “It hit right on that building, and it went up in smoke. The fire ceased [from the target building]. So, we were able to maintain fire suppression [on the insurgent position South and outside of Husaybah].” Part of Awtry’s Second Platoon would be firing their M-16A4 Rifles, M-249 SAWs, and M-203 Grenade Launchers at the insurgents South and outside of Husaybah near the train station. The direct hit by the mortars called in by Awtry seems to have tipped the balance of the attack in favor of Lima Company in the first combat action commanded by Neal as Commanding Officer.
After the mortar mission scored a direct hit on the insurgent target house, resulting in a smoke plume, Neal and the Kilo Platoon moved along the road on the Southern edge of Husaybah towards the target house. The combination of the mortar mission and the continued suppressive fire from Second Platoon toward the insurgents South and outside of Husaybah “gave us enough umph, or clearance, through the MSR [Main Supply Route on the South of Husaybah], literally going from house to house, shooting and moving from house to house.”
“We fired up in here,” Neal continued, pointing to the road on the Western edge of Husaybah. “And when we got closer, we took a few more shots from buildings in here,” Neal points to buildings in the city, immediately adjacent to the target house, which was already burning from the mortar mission. “And we did fire back. Battalion was still working on sweeping through,” Neal motions across the town, indicating the on-line movement by several platoons from East to West, which Lopez was planning on the opposite side of town.
“Now, after the mortars ceased here — after the fire ceased here,” Neal points to the target house, which had been hit directly by Awtry’s mortar mission, “That’s what allowed [the Kilo platoon and Bellmont and the Corpsman and me] to go up close because this whole building was definitely smoking. Just to make sure we killed everything in that building, that’s when Lt Fleming [commanding Kilo 1], said, ‘I’m going to put two SMAW HE rounds in there, and I am going to put two AT-4 Rounds in there.’ A SMAW is a “Shoulder Mounted Assault Weapon” designed to be used against bunkers and light armored vehicles. It fires an 83mm rocket with a dual fuze, designed to delay if it hits a soft target, like a bunker. AT-4s are the standard, 84mm anti tank rocket carried by Marines. The Marines were applying combined arms in the situation by using the effects of the mortars to make the enemy vulnerable to the rockets.
“That’s exactly what they did,” recalls Neal. “I stayed close in this building where I could get eyes on,” Neal points to a building almost adjacent to the target house. “I saw his Assault guys fire into those buildings, then we pushed up.”
Neal then ordered Kilo 1 to cease fire while maintaining observation towards the surrounding building in Husaybah as well as toward the threat areas South and outside of Husaybah, since they had seized the target house. When Kilo 1 and Neal occupied the target house, Awtry’s Second Platoon collapsed his support by fire position South and outside of Husaybah. Awtry’s Marines moved into the target house too, while still maintaining observation south of Husaybah, the areas where they had received fire from as well.
Lieutenant Neal, Staff Sergeant St Pierre, the Lima 2 Platoon Sergeant, and Lieutenant Awtry met briefly. “We were happy to see each other,” recalls Neal. “That was pretty interesting,” Neal remembers saying. The Marines continued to sweep through the adjacent buildings, rounding up casualties. “We put so much overwhelming firepower in this small complex here, keeping our fires oriented South, that some of the local Iraqi civilians actually gave up some viable intel on where the insurgents were hiding out. So, essentially, the locals there, the fence sitters, dimed out some of the insurgents. We picked up 5 insurgents and brought them back with us.” Neal’s description of the the locals as “fence sitters” — recorded years apart from an interview with an entirely different Lima Commanding Officer who characterized April 04 as a tipping point — reinforces the idea that the Lima Marines were, in fact, fighting a tactical action amid a Tipping Point in which Al Qaeda was being accepted more broadly by the Iraqi population in Anbar.
Neal3.mov [got it]

Bellmont1.mov [got it]
* * *
Gunny Vegh had run out into Husaybah with Gannon. Vegh always saw himself as the primary tactical adviser to the company commander, not as the company logistician. “I have a police sergeant for logistics,” Vegh told me. Vegh, a school-trained scout sniper, was among the most proficient Marines in Lima Company, and he coordinated the evacuation of casualties in Husaybah on that hectic day when Gannon was killed. At one point, he came up on Link’s squad, which was held up near the Baath Party Headquarters on Market Street by a sniper.
“A sniper had started taking fire at us,” recalled Link. “We were moving into the Baath Party house. We had security outside. That’s when the sniper started taking shots at us. He hit a 7-ton [truck] driver. He was trying to shoot at us. We were pinned down, trying to see where it was coming from. I sent Sergeant Soudan out to the building where it was coming from to take an AT-4 [rocket] shot, but then the sniper moved positions. All of a sudden, Gunny Vegh is just standing there, and the rounds were dinging. [Vegh said,] ‘You guys scared to meet Jesus… Let’s fucking go.’ I took off running, Parker [the first fire team leader in Link’s squad] took off running. Then the whole squad took off running. [It was one of those situations] where that was enough leadership until we got to the house [where the sniper was]. Then, I said, ‘First team do this,’ but that initial run up there was just a matter of ‘everyone, who’s coming with me.’ [The house that they assaulted was] 150 to 200 meters [away from the position where Gunny Vegh came up on Link’s squad].”
When I asked Gunny Vegh about this incident, he said only, “I’ll let the Marines talk about that,” and “It’s one of those things that Gunnies do.”
Link11.mov [got it]
[Section 3]
[Section 4]
[Section 5]
[Section 6]
[Section 7]
[Section 8]
[Section 9]
[Section 10]
[Section 11]
[Section 12]
[Section 13]
[N 29 14’4.2″ E 47 58’22.44″ Kuwait International Airport]
2400 Local GMT 17 April 2004
Staff Sergeant Carpenter arrives in Kuwait, after the delay caused by his baggage being lost.
After getting oriented on the ground, Matt Carpenter calls his wife, Beth.
“Matt, Lima Company had a really bad day,” said Beth. By that point, Matt Carpenter already knew that Wasser had been killed in action. He knew it was imperative to get up to Lima Company as soon as possible.
“What are you talking about?” said Carpenter. He had a suspicion that Rick Gannon was gone.
“There’s been a bunch of guys — some of your guys — were killed today,” replied Beth, referring to some of Carpenter’s Weapons Platoon Marines.
“Like who?” asked Carpenter.
“Valdez, Gibson, Smith, and,” Beth paused. “I can’t remember the last name.”
“Don’t tell me it was Van Leuven?” For whatever reason, Carpenter picked the name out of a roster in his brain.
“Yeah, that’s the other Marine,” confirmed Beth. “And Rick.”
“Rick!” Carpenter was shocked.
“Yeah, Rick was killed last night.”
Carpenter started yelling into the phone. Beth put Sally Gannon on the phone. Sally was cool and calm.
“Hey Matt, how are you?” asked Sally.
“Jesus, I am so sorry,” said Matt Carpenter.
“Matt, I don’t want you to worry about avenging Rick. I want you to just take care of Lima, just take care of the guys.”
After hanging up the phone, Staff Sergeant Carpenter went straight to the 1st Marine Division Representative, a Master Sergeant. “I need to get in country, like now,” Carpenter told the higher ranking Staff NCO.
“Well Devil Dog, there’s nothing going in until tomorrow, and you’re on the list. It’s kind of first come first serve, and rank dependent,” replied the Master Sergeant.
“I don’t give a fuck, you put me on a goddamned convoy. I don’t care what it takes, I have got to get into Al Qaim,” said Carpenter. “My guys just took some heavy fucking hits and I am not sitting in this fucking camp in Kuwait any more.”
“Well, you’ll just have to wait until the next flight,” said the Master Sergeant. Livid, Carpenter was ready to punch the man, rank or threat of court martial be damned.
“Well, what time do I need to be here so I can get fucking signed up on this list?” asked Carpenter.
“You’ve got to be here at zero-eight,” said the Master Sergeant.
“Roger that.” Carpenter didn’t sleep at all that night.
N 34 23’45.24″ E 40 58′ 31.08″ Camp Husaybah, Iraq
Local GMT 18 April 2004
Major General Mattis, the Commanding General of 1st Marine Division, surveyed the map as 1st Lt Neal briefed him on the previous day’s fight. Mattis then addressed the Lima Company Marines, and asked them, “Is there anything that you need?”
Several of the Weapons Platoon Marines responded, “Yeah, we want Staff Sergeant Carpenter up here, our Platoon Sergeant. He’s been sitting in Kuwait for 2 weeks.” They didn’t know that his bags never arrived. They thought Carpenter was sitting in Kuwait.
Mattis looked over at his Aide, and said, “I can do that.” The Aide-de-Camp, a field grade officer, typed an email to expedite Carpenter’s passage to Husaybah shortly thereafter.
[N 29 14’4.2″ E 47 58’22.44″ Kuwait International Airport]
0700 Local GMT 18 April 2004
Carpenter was standing at the door to the Master Sergeant an hour before the appointed time.
“Staff Sergeant, could you come here a minute?” The Master Sergeant, who had been obstinate the night before, was a little sheepish.
“Yes, Master Sergeant,” said Carpenter.
“Staff Sergeant, do you know General Mattis?” asked the Master Sergeant.
“Yeah, who the fuck doesn’t know General Mattis?” replied Carpenter.
“No, like do you know him?” asked top.
“Like a drinking buddy?”
“Yeah,” asked the Master Sergeant.
“No,” replied Carpenter.
“Well, that’s interesting.” The Master Sergeant slid his laptop around to show Carpenter the screen, which read: “Top, Staff Sergeant Carpenter and First Sergeant Martin [the Weapons Company First Sergeant, who had broken his ankle] from 3/7 will be on the next flight into Al Qaim. No one below the rank of 0-6 Colonel will bump them from this flight. Mattis.”
Holy shit, thought Carpenter to himself. He made the flight into Al Asad,
N 33 46’41.7″ E 42 26’6.9″ “The Cans” Al Asad Airbase
1100 Local GMT 18 April 2004
At Al Asad Air Base, Staff Sergeant Carpenter linked up with the 1st Marine Division Chaplain, Father Bill Devine, a Catholic priest who had been 7th Marines chaplain and who Sally and Rick. Devine was on his way to Al Qaim to spend time with the units who had just suffered casualties. Devine was a wreck, as was Carpenter. They both spent the night at Al Asad, then took a flight of Marine CH-53 Helicopters to Al Qaim the next day.
N 34 22’9.3″ E 41 05’39.3″ Al Qaim
2100 Local GMT 20 April 2004
After the helicopter flight, Carpenter took a convoy from Al Qaim into Husaybah. The Lima Marines were there to meet and greet Carpenter.
He got to Weapons Platoon, Lima Company, and discussed the events of the last few days. “I’d never seen guys who just seemed like they were gutted,” recalled Carpenter. The loss of the 4 Marines from Weapons Platoon as well as the Company Commander, Captain Gannon, was the first large loss of Marines killed in action that most Marine units had taken up to that point, with the exception of 12 Marines killed in action in Battalion 2/4 in Ramadi also in the month of April 2004.
Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav [got it]
34 23’45.06” N 40 58’28.74 E elev 179 meters Camp Gannon, Husaybah, Iraq
Local GMT 24 April 2004
Carpenter remembers Rick Gannon as a very down to earth kind of guy who gave a shit about the Marines. These are high compliments for a Marine Infantry Officer. Gannon’s death resonated through the entire Battalion.
Staff Sergeant Carpenter was walking through the Camp. He looked at the lone figure of a Marine from 2nd Platoon, a hard nosed Marine who had been in the first deployment with Lima Company. The lone Marine seemed a little depressed.
Carpenter sat beside the Marine, asking, “Hey, what’s going on buddy?”
“Staff Sergeant, I am just thinking about Captain Gannon.”
“Yeah.” Carpenter didn’t have to say very much.
“My dad didn’t play a big role in my upbringing,” continued the younger Marine. Carpenter took it in. It was uncharacteristic of most Marines to show very much emotion. But the feelings about Captain Gannon’s death rippled through the unit. “The first real father figure that I had was him,” continued the 2nd Platoon Marine. “I remember Captain Gannon coming out when I was on fire watch, like zero-two-hundred. He was just shooting the shit. He must have stood post with me for two hours asking about my family, where I was from.”
Carpenter had heard the story before, from many of the Lima Marines. In fact, he had grown to know Gannon from one of those conversations out in the Soccer Stadium in Karbala, when Gannon expressed a relentless, but sincere, interest in all of the Marines in Lima Company, regardless of rank.
Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav
N 34 22’9.3″ E 41 05’39.3″ Al Qaim
2100 Local GMT 25 April 2004
Carp is down in Al Qaim with his Weapons Platoon. The platoon is torn up emotionally. He is going through that with them. He gets the word from 3 runners to get on the satellite phone to Lima Company. He turns down the request. Then he gets called by Major Schreffler, who orders him up to Husaybah to take over Lima 1 because the platoon commander and the platoon sergeant were relieved. (45 minute)
Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav
The Battle of Husaybah, unlike the First Battle of Fallujah chronicled in accounts like West’s No True Glory, was conclusive. There were very few reporters, and no politicians micro-managed Lieutenant Colonel Lopez’ decision to clear the town through two sweeps through the town on April 17 and April 18. Whereas Fallujah caused Major General Mattis to fume that he should have been allowed to “take Vienna” in a historical allusion, Husaybah was cleared decisively. In the weeks after the Battle of Husaybah on April 17 and 18, Captain Neal would observe a marked decline in insurgent activities in his zone of action — but it was not to last.
In the larger picture, a future Lima Commanding Officer, Rory Quinn, marks April 2004, as a transition point between two major phases of his account of the entire Iraq War. April 2004 was a tipping point, and moreover, it was a Black Swan event. In the financial world, the events of a month like October, 2008, are a Black Swan event. Black Swan events are large-impact, hard-to-predict events that we try to rationalize in retrospect. 9-11 was a Black Swan event. In the Iraq insurgency, April 2004 was a juncture where the Iraqi population tipped in its support towards the insurgents, lead by Al Qaeda cells, and away from the Americans. In Quinn’s estimate, the major achievement of the Marines during the long phase that commenced in April 2004 was simply not to lose. This is consistent with the non-defeatist attitude which is an integral part of the Marine Corps culture.
Lima Company remained in its based in Camp Husaybah, patrolling and conducting observation posts (OPs) in town. As Bing West will observe in his later book, The Strongest Tribe, the far reaches of Anbar, such as Al Qaim and Husaybah, will see faster progress than cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. This faster rate of progress may be due, in part, to the decisive action taken by 3/7 in April 2004 whereas a decisive assault on Fallujah was not conducted until the end of 2004, immediately after the American presidential election. Back in the States, the unit that would replace Lima 3/7 — Bravo 1/7 — observed the actions in Husaybah, and trained accordingly, as we will see. 1/7 would begin two important patterns in the coming years in Al Qaim. First, 1/7 would make repeated deployments to the same area, thus increasing the familiarity of its key leaders with the physical and human terrain; and the battalion would start using Combined Action Platoons by its second deployment to Al Qaim. But, at the end of April, 2004, these were still trends which would take years to evolve. At the end of April 2004, Lima Company still had a rising counterinsurgency to fight.

Mejia1.mov

Mejia2 to Mejia12

Mejia12.mov

Ruckel 1 to 6

Chapter 10 – 17 Apr 04 Battle of Husaybah

[Section 1]

Neal10.mov

Neal11.mov

[Section 2]

In retrospect, a Lima Company Commanding Officer would be able to label the events of April, 2004, as the end of one phase of the Iraq War and the beginning of another. The juncture between these two phases would be apparent as one of several Tipping Points, in the phrase of popular author Gladwell, characterized by the accumulation of small factors which add up to a significant change. In this case, the small factors included the lack of socioeconomic programs to support the military victory in 2003, and the U.S. over-reaction to the killing of 4 Americans in Fallujah at the end of March, 2004. These accumulated factors together caused a tipping point after which the Iraqi population became generally supportive of the insurgents. But, at the time, the Lima Marines had not yet adapted, though, as we have seen, Rick Gannon — a scholar of warfare, and the son of a Marine Officer who had served in the Vietnam War — was amassing evidence in support of the view that the assumptions about the population and the insurgency were wrong.

0830 hours [dtg, grid]
“Lima 5, this is Lima 6,” said Captain Gannon to his second in command, First Lieutenant Neal over the Lima Company tactical net. “I got good news and I got bad news. The good news is we got the casualties onto the bird and we got them safe. The bad news is we’ve already lost one Marine. I’m going to go off freq to go develop the situation.”

At that point, Neal knew that most of the forces were pushed towards the Eastern part of Husaybah. Major Schreffler, the Battalion S-3 Operations Officer and the former Lima Company Commanding Officer, was popping in and out of the Combat Operations Center at Camp Husaybah. Schreffler was also going to his jump vehicle — a hummer equipped with enough radios to monitor all the available communications nets — so that he could talk to the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lopez, and the rest of the Battalion Staff. By that point, Schreffler was already developing a plan to have the Battalion reinforce Lima Company in Husaybah.

An hour went by. Usually, Captain Gannon habitually came up on the radio to give Lieutenant Neal a situation report every 15 minutes so that Neal could have full situational awareness, even though he was in the Combat Operations Center at the Lima base. Neal had only been on patrol in the city of Husaybah once or twice during the deployment so far.

Weapons Platoon had pushed deep into the East of the City, near the dividing line between Lima Company and Kilo Company’s respective zones of action. As it turned out, this was a seam in the Marine’s operational areas that the insurgents sought to exploit. For example, Medal of Honor recipient Jason Dunham, of Kilo 3/7, was mortally wounded in this seam between the two rifle companies three days earlier.

Neal noted that “company commanders have a tendency to think that whatever manuever element we are with, that’s our security, so we don’t bring security. [Captain Gannon] probably thought that same thing — that between where 3d platoon is and where weapons platoon is, it’s safe.” Weapons Platoon had cleared one building, and then hopped over to the rooftop of another building, not realizing that was another insurgent stronghold designed to be used as a fall back position for the coming attack to seize the Marine base. Captain Gannon, moving from 3d platoon to weapons platoon — to the point where he could best command his company, leading from the front as Marine Officers are taught to do — moved into the stronghold building with the Lima Weapons Platoon Marines on top. Captain Gannon was shot in that building.

Corporal Gibson, Smith, and Valdez — all of Weapons Platoon — notice the gunfire and move to link up with the Company Commander. Gibson, the first to enter the building, is shot too. Gibson reports that he has been hit over his PRR — personal radio for intra-squad communications. Weapons Platoon realizes that they have insurgents underneath them in the house. But, by that point, it’s too late. Smith and Valdez go into the stronghold house to pull out Gibson, but they are both shot too. Neal is monitoring this on the Lima Company command net, trying to figure out where the Company Commander, Captain Gannon is located. Lima 3, Brad Watson, hasn’t seen him. CAAT Blue Actual, Lieutenant Moore, hasn’t seen him. Captain Gannon had moved from where CAAT Blue had been hit and immobilized. Hours go by.

By 1200 hours, Lima Company and its reinforcements, like CAAT, are running low on ammunition in the town. Weapons Platoon, now reinforced by other elements from Lima, is fighting the insurgents in the stronghold house.

“Sir,” Lieutenant Neal says to Major Schreffler, “I don’t have a good feeling about this. No one knows where the six is. I can’t get him on the hook. Something is not right. I don’t like this at all.”

“Roger that,” replied Major Schreffler. “I am going to continue to work with Battalion. Continue to focus on the fight in your zone. Keep me updated on what the company is doing.” In the efficient language of a military unit in action, Schreffler, who was responsible for planning and operations for the 1200-Marine Battalion, could not lose his focus to become overly involved with Neal, who was second in command of the 150-Marine Company at one edge of his battle space. Neal had been one of Schreffler’s students at Infantry Officers’ Course, and Schreffler had commanded Lima Company in the previous year’s invasion of Iraq — and he was Godfather to Rick Gannon’s kids — yet, all of that was kept below the surface of professional, mission oriented communications.

“Roger that,” confirmed Neal. “Good to go.” Neal had limited communications and situational awareness in the Command Post. But, he did know that Lima 3d Platoon, Lima Weapons Platoon, Broadsword [the call sign for the Recon Platoon], and CAAT [the attached heavy weapons platoon commanded by Lt Moore] have all consolidated on one position — the stronghold house where they worked together to kill the insurgents. Captain Sofka, callsign “2 Pam,” the FAC (Forward Air Controller) and Captain Hudson, the Recon Platoon Commander, known as Broadside Actual, were pushing Neal to get out into the town.

“We can’t really do much,” argued Hudson to Neal, who was technically junior to him, “But I got to get out there with my guys. I have a little bit more ass [combat power] that I can provide to them.” The Recon Platoon Commander was expressing the bias of Marine Commanders to be with their Marines, especially while in contact.

Similarly, Captain Sofka, who also outranked Lieutenant Neal, argued, “I can’t control air from where I am. I need to be up where Weapons Platoon is located.”

Neal rejected both Captains. “We have enough Marines out there forward. Let’s not send out more.”

Hudson and Sofka continued to prod Neal to go out into town, personally.

Neal finally relented. “You can head out if you honestly feel you can link up with Weapons Platoon and have a positive effect. But stay off of Market street [the main street out into town] because it is a hot spot. It has a lot of IEDs, I don’t think it has been cleared all the way through.”

The two Captains, who worked together often because the Recon Platoon had more Marines who regularly called in air support than the rest of Lima Company, headed out into town. Neal had made his cautionary point to Sofka, but Sofka didn’t relay the warning to Hudson. Five minutes outside the wire at Camp Husaybah, Captain Hudson’s vehicle was hit by an IED while he was traveling down Market toward the main elements of Lima Company — 3d Platoon, Weapons, Recon, and CAAT — out on the East edge of town. Fortunately, Hudson’s vehicle took minimal damage. Neal, however, was livid because he felt like his guidance was being ignored. He fumed, didn’t I tell you guys not to go straight through town. The word had not been passed from Sofka to Hudson.

In the surgical, antiseptic language of the military, the word that Captain Gannon had been killed in action filtered back into the Lima Command Post in Camp Husaybah with the word that Gannon was “routine.” If he was an “urgent” casualty, it would indicate that he was still alive and needed to receive medical attention right away. But instead, Lieutenant Neal and Major Schreffler were informed that Gannon was “routine,” that his body could be routinely moved through the military system to dispose of fallen Marines. Dominique Neal, a First Lieutenant and Second in Command of Lima Company had just become the first Marine Officer to assume command of a Rifle Company due to the combat death of the Commanding Officer since Vietnam. Neal immediately got onto the Tactical Radio Net and said, “Lima Five is now Lima Six.”

[look up Neal movie with this account]

source:

http://lima37.com/Site/Interviews/2BAA72F1-E380-440B-993D-D2ADE74B4E1E.html

Kurt Bellmont did not go out into Husaybah with 3d Platoon. He was sick in the early morning of April 17, but he started to feel better throughout the day. Staff Sergeant Wilder was in the living area, passing the word about the ongoing combat throughout the day. He came back into the squad bay, and asked Bellmont, “How are you feeling?”

“If I can, I’d like to get back out there,” responded Bellmont, who felt bad about abandoning his platoon while they were in combat.

“Lieutenant Neal is the new CO. Captain Gannon is KIA,” Staff Sergeant Wilder informed him. The news of Gannon’s death sank in. Wilder continued, “The new CO is about to go out. Do you want to be his body guard?”

Bellmont answered, “Yeah, absolutely.”

“OK. You’re going to be his RO [Radio Operator] and body guard all at the same time.”

Bellmont started to get his gear together. He was glad to be able to get back out into town since he felt worthless, sitting behind.

Kurt Bellmont’s desire to immediately get back into the fight alongside his unit is one of the characteristic qualities of Combat Marines. Another of those qualities of Marine Leaders was on display among the Company and Battalion leadership in reaction to Gannon’s death — a bias for action. Schreffler — who was Godfather to Rick Gannon’s kids — and Neal — who considered Gannon a friend as well as a Commanding Officer — took almost no time for personal reaction when they heard the news of his death. Schreffler reportedly hung his head for a second or two, then continued to coordinate the battle via the Battalion Tactical Radio Frequency — he was third in command of the Battalion, and the primary plans officer for the unit. The Battalion staff passed word to Neal that there was an intelligence item indicating that another insurgent strong point house was located in the Southwest of the city. The Marine Base, located on the Northeast periphery of the city, was the target of a coordinated insurgent attack with multiple strong points to support hundreds of insurgents who had massed in the city amid the increasingly friendly population. Neal started planning for a 2-platoon attack on that insurgent strong point house at the Southwest of the city.

At the same time, Schreffler was coordinating Lieutenant Colonel Lopez decision to gather the rest of the Battalion, including 2 platoons from Lima, the CAAT Team and the rest of Kilo Company, on the Eastern edge of Husaybah for the purpose of conducting as sweep from East to West through the town. First, however, Battalion was setting a cordon around the city with, among other units, Recon in order to seal the city and make sure that no insurgents escaped the pending sweep. Lieutenant Colonel Lopez would sweep East to West with two Rifle Companies on line and the CAAT Vehicles moving down the roads. Lieutenant Neal, now Commanding Officer of Lima Company in Camp Husaybah, would conduct an immediate 2-platoon attack by moving South out of the Camp through an area that the Marines had termed, “440 Area” — basically, one story homes — then West to the insurgent strong point house that had been recently identified. In other words, the Marines would have what they called a “Geometry of Fires” problem — in plain English, Neal would be attacking towards the West, while Lopez would be attacking to the East, through the same city, separated by only several kilometers — and by time. This is why in Neal’s immediate attack, time was of the essence.

“You’re going to need a medic,” Schreffler noted to Neal. Schreffler was fighting the Battalion, moving units around to set the cordon, answering up to Lopez, confirming the placement of support for the sweep. But, he was also an experienced Company Commander who had commanded Lima for a year before Gannon took over. Neal got Doc Purviance, a Navy Corpsman assigned to the Headquarters Platoon, while he briefed Lima 2, commanded by Lt Awtry, a Mustang (former Enlisted) officer, and Kilo 1, for the coming attack. These two platoons were the last Rifle Platoons left in the base. When they emptied into town, the entire base would be out in town, in the middle of the fight.

Second Platoon under Awtry lead the 2-platoon column Southward out of Camp Husaybah. Neal, with his small command element of Bellmont and Doc Perviance, traveled between the two platoons. Second Platoon moved South of Route Train — literally a railroad track that ran the entire length of the Southern edge of Husaybah, and started to turn to the West, aiming for the target house. As Second Platoon’s lead fire team crossed back North of Route Train, the 4-Marine Team was hit by small arms fire from insurgents in the target house.

Bellmont describes what happened next in among the leadership element with Neal and the Corpsman: “We were crossing a big open area, a big danger area. This is something that always gets me. When an officer is moving in a formation, they usually just float around… well, they always end up at the front because they are moving individually because the rest of the squad is doing their bumping and bounding and they take a while to move. Well, he kept making his way to the front, and I kept trying to hold him back because all right that first team goes across then the bad guys know we’re there, second team goes across, that’s when the bad guys ready to start shooting. Well, he managed to work his way all the way up to being the second team. And I was with him. It was myself and Doc and the CO. The first team went all the way across, not a problem. And I was like, ‘well let’s hold back a little bit sir.’”

Neal, the former Naval Academy sprinter and Sacred Heart High School cornerback, responded, “No, we’ll go on this one.”

Bellmont continues his narrative, “And we started running and we got about halfway across a 250 meter danger area. And about half way across we started getting shot at with rounds ricocheting near our feet. And they were behind me, so I looked back, and they were both laying on the ground so I hit the ground too. I ran behind what little micro terrain there was, which was a 4 inch curb, so I went and laid by that curb which was where they were laying. I threw a couple of rounds in the direction of where it was coming to suppress their fires. And then I yelled for the team in front of us, and the team behind us was not shooting and I could not understand why, so I yelled for both teams to suppress for us, then I had Captain Neal go first, then Doc, then they suppressed for me while I finished the way across.”

Neal and his command element pushed along with the Kilo platoon following in trace of Awtry’s Lima Two. Tracing a map of Husaybah, Neal recognized the island where he and Bellmont had been pinned down by enemy fire. “While we got pinned down,” he says, “that was enough fire for Second Platoon — because they were also taking fire from this general position [from insurgents located outside of Husaybah, South of Route Train], from the position [of the insurgent stronghold house at the Southwest of the city], and down this axis [parallel with the Western edge of the city].” Awtry’s Lima Two, in other words, was pinned down by insurgent fire from three, mutually supporting positions.

“When we took the brunt of the fire [from the insurgents on the Western edge of the city],” continues Neal, discussing the command element crossing the danger area that Bellmont described, “it allowed [Second Platoon] to gain fire superiority [against the insurgents located outside of Husaybah, South of Route Train], and fire superiority here [at the insurgent stronghold house at the Southwest of the city,] calling in mortars [to hit the target house].”

The Marine Corps defines “combined arms” as using one weapon to make the enemy vulnerable to another weapon system. What happened at this juncture of the attack is probably why Neal would rank Awtry as his top Lieutenant in fitness reports evaluating all of his direct reports. Awtry, an experienced former Enlisted Marine who became an officer — a Mustang — had several injured Marines in his lead fire team, and he was under fire from three positions. One of the insurgent positions, however, began to fire instead on Neal and his Radio Operator and Corpsman. Awtry immediately called for accurate mortar fire from the Lima Company 60mm mortar section located in Camp Husaybah.

Awtry would have moved up from his position, possibly behind his first squad, also with his radio operator near by. The platoon radio operator, Lance Corporal Hogan, called for fire:

“3/7 Mortars, this is Lima Two, adjust fire, over.”

“Lima Two, this is 3/7 Mortars, adjust fire, over.”

He would have given the Mortar section a grid, or more likely, called the mission in from a pre-registered target point. Two 81mm mortars from the 3/7 Battalion Mortar Platoon at Camp Husaybah responded to the call for fire. Word was passed to Ruckel and the other Marines to “get small” because the incoming mortars would be “danger close” — in this case, less than 200 meters from their position. Ruckel had been firing his SAW to suppress the targets. Ruckel was not really sure what that meant, but he took cover as well as he could.

The first mortar round hit the target house.

Neal describes the effect of the mortar mission called by Awtry: “It hit right on that building, and it went up in smoke. The fire ceased [from the target building]. So, we were able to maintain fire suppression [on the insurgent position South and outside of Husaybah].” Part of Awtry’s Second Platoon would be firing their M-16A4 Rifles, M-249 SAWs, and M-203 Grenade Launchers at the insurgents South and outside of Husaybah near the train station. The direct hit by the mortars called in by Awtry seems to have tipped the balance of the attack in favor of Lima Company in the first combat action commanded by Neal as Commanding Officer.

After the mortar mission scored a direct hit on the insurgent target house, resulting in a smoke plume, Neal and the Kilo Platoon moved along the road on the Southern edge of Husaybah towards the target house. The combination of the mortar mission and the continued suppressive fire from Second Platoon toward the insurgents South and outside of Husaybah “gave us enough umph, or clearance, through the MSR [Main Supply Route on the South of Husaybah], literally going from house to house, shooting and moving from house to house.”

“We fired up in here,” Neal continued, pointing to the road on the Western edge of Husaybah. “And when we got closer, we took a few more shots from buildings in here,” Neal points to buildings in the city, immediately adjacent to the target house, which was already burning from the mortar mission. “And we did fire back. Battalion was still working on sweeping through,” Neal motions across the town, indicating the on-line movement by several platoons from East to West, which Lopez was planning on the opposite side of town.

“Now, after the mortars ceased here — after the fire ceased here,” Neal points to the target house, which had been hit directly by Awtry’s mortar mission, “That’s what allowed [the Kilo platoon and Bellmont and the Corpsman and me] to go up close because this whole building was definitely smoking. Just to make sure we killed everything in that building, that’s when Lt Fleming [commanding Kilo 1], said, ‘I’m going to put two SMAW HE rounds in there, and I am going to put two AT-4 Rounds in there.’ A SMAW is a “Shoulder Mounted Assault Weapon” designed to be used against bunkers and light armored vehicles. It fires an 83mm rocket with a dual fuze, designed to delay if it hits a soft target, like a bunker. AT-4s are the standard, 84mm anti tank rocket carried by Marines. The Marines were applying combined arms in the situation by using the effects of the mortars to make the enemy vulnerable to the rockets.

“That’s exactly what they did,” recalls Neal. “I stayed close in this building where I could get eyes on,” Neal points to a building almost adjacent to the target house. “I saw his Assault guys fire into those buildings, then we pushed up.”

Neal then ordered Kilo 1 to cease fire while maintaining observation towards the surrounding building in Husaybah as well as toward the threat areas South and outside of Husaybah, since they had seized the target house. When Kilo 1 and Neal occupied the target house, Awtry’s Second Platoon collapsed his support by fire position South and outside of Husaybah. Awtry’s Marines moved into the target house too, while still maintaining observation south of Husaybah, the areas where they had received fire from as well.

Lieutenant Neal, Staff Sergeant St Pierre, the Lima 2 Platoon Sergeant, and Lieutenant Awtry met briefly. “We were happy to see each other,” recalls Neal. “That was pretty interesting,” Neal remembers saying. The Marines continued to sweep through the adjacent buildings, rounding up casualties. “We put so much overwhelming firepower in this small complex here, keeping our fires oriented South, that some of the local Iraqi civilians actually gave up some viable intel on where the insurgents were hiding out. So, essentially, the locals there, the fence sitters, dimed out some of the insurgents. We picked up 5 insurgents and brought them back with us.” Neal’s description of the the locals as “fence sitters” — recorded years apart from an interview with an entirely different Lima Commanding Officer who characterized April 04 as a tipping point — reinforces the idea that the Lima Marines were, in fact, fighting a tactical action amid a Tipping Point in which Al Qaeda was being accepted more broadly by the Iraqi population in Anbar.

Neal3.mov

Bellmont1.mov

* * *

Gunny Vegh had run out into Husaybah with Gannon. Vegh always saw himself as the primary tactical adviser to the company commander, not as the company logistician. “I have a police sergeant for logistics,” Vegh told me. Vegh, a school-trained scout sniper, was among the most proficient Marines in Lima Company, and he coordinated the evacuation of casualties in Husaybah on that hectic day when Gannon was killed. At one point, he came up on Link’s squad, which was held up near the Baath Party Headquarters on Market Street by a sniper.

“A sniper had started taking fire at us,” recalled Link. “We were moving into the Baath Party house. We had security outside. That’s when the sniper started taking shots at us. He hit a 7-ton [truck] driver. He was trying to shoot at us. We were pinned down, trying to see where it was coming from. I sent Sergeant Soudan out to the building where it was coming from to take an AT-4 [rocket] shot, but then the sniper moved positions. All of a sudden, Gunny Vegh is just standing there, and the rounds were dinging. [Vegh said,] ‘You guys scared to meet Jesus… Let’s fucking go.’ I took off running, Parker [the first fire team leader in Link’s squad] took off running. Then the whole squad took off running. [It was one of those situations] where that was enough leadership until we got to the house [where the sniper was]. Then, I said, ‘First team do this,’ but that initial run up there was just a matter of ‘everyone, who’s coming with me.’ [The house that they assaulted was] 150 to 200 meters [away from the position where Gunny Vegh came up on Link’s squad].”

When I asked Gunny Vegh about this incident, he said only, “I’ll let the Marines talk about that,” and “It’s one of those things that Gunnies do.”

Link11.mov

[Section 3]

[Section 4]

[Section 5]

[Section 6]

[Section 7]

[Section 8]

[Section 9]

[Section 10]

[Section 11]

[Section 12]

[Section 13]

[N 29 14’4.2″ E 47 58’22.44″ Kuwait International Airport]
2400 Local GMT 17 April 2004

Staff Sergeant Carpenter arrives in Kuwait, after the delay caused by his baggage being lost.

After getting oriented on the ground, Matt Carpenter calls his wife, Beth.

“Matt, Lima Company had a really bad day,” said Beth. By that point, Matt Carpenter already knew that Wasser had been killed in action. He knew it was imperative to get up to Lima Company as soon as possible.

“What are you talking about?” said Carpenter. He had a suspicion that Rick Gannon was gone.

“There’s been a bunch of guys — some of your guys — were killed today,” replied Beth, referring to some of Carpenter’s Weapons Platoon Marines.

“Like who?” asked Carpenter.

“Valdez, Gibson, Smith, and,” Beth paused. “I can’t remember the last name.”

“Don’t tell me it was Van Leuven?” For whatever reason, Carpenter picked the name out of a roster in his brain.

“Yeah, that’s the other Marine,” confirmed Beth. “And Rick.”

“Rick!” Carpenter was shocked.

“Yeah, Rick was killed last night.”

Carpenter started yelling into the phone. Beth put Sally Gannon on the phone. Sally was cool and calm.

“Hey Matt, how are you?” asked Sally.

“Jesus, I am so sorry,” said Matt Carpenter.

“Matt, I don’t want you to worry about avenging Rick. I want you to just take care of Lima, just take care of the guys.”

After hanging up the phone, Staff Sergeant Carpenter went straight to the 1st Marine Division Representative, a Master Sergeant. “I need to get in country, like now,” Carpenter told the higher ranking Staff NCO.

“Well Devil Dog, there’s nothing going in until tomorrow, and you’re on the list. It’s kind of first come first serve, and rank dependent,” replied the Master Sergeant.

“I don’t give a fuck, you put me on a goddamned convoy. I don’t care what it takes, I have got to get into Al Qaim,” said Carpenter. “My guys just took some heavy fucking hits and I am not sitting in this fucking camp in Kuwait any more.”

“Well, you’ll just have to wait until the next flight,” said the Master Sergeant. Livid, Carpenter was ready to punch the man, rank or threat of court martial be damned.

“Well, what time do I need to be here so I can get fucking signed up on this list?” asked Carpenter.

“You’ve got to be here at zero-eight,” said the Master Sergeant.

“Roger that.” Carpenter didn’t sleep at all that night.

N 34 23′45.24″ E 40 58′ 31.08″ Camp Husaybah, Iraq
Local GMT 18 April 2004

Major General Mattis, the Commanding General of 1st Marine Division, surveyed the map as 1st Lt Neal briefed him on the previous day’s fight. Mattis then addressed the Lima Company Marines, and asked them, “Is there anything that you need?”

Several of the Weapons Platoon Marines responded, “Yeah, we want Staff Sergeant Carpenter up here, our Platoon Sergeant. He’s been sitting in Kuwait for 2 weeks.” They didn’t know that his bags never arrived. They thought Carpenter was sitting in Kuwait.

Mattis looked over at his Aide, and said, “I can do that.” The Aide-de-Camp, a field grade officer, typed an email to expedite Carpenter’s passage to Husaybah shortly thereafter.

[N 29 14’4.2″ E 47 58’22.44″ Kuwait International Airport]
0700 Local GMT 18 April 2004

Carpenter was standing at the door to the Master Sergeant an hour before the appointed time.

“Staff Sergeant, could you come here a minute?” The Master Sergeant, who had been obstinate the night before, was a little sheepish.

“Yes, Master Sergeant,” said Carpenter.

“Staff Sergeant, do you know General Mattis?” asked the Master Sergeant.

“Yeah, who the fuck doesn’t know General Mattis?” replied Carpenter.

“No, like do you know him?” asked top.

“Like a drinking buddy?”

“Yeah,” asked the Master Sergeant.

“No,” replied Carpenter.

“Well, that’s interesting.” The Master Sergeant slid his laptop around to show Carpenter the screen, which read: “Top, Staff Sergeant Carpenter and First Sergeant Martin [the Weapons Company First Sergeant, who had broken his ankle] from 3/7 will be on the next flight into Al Qaim. No one below the rank of 0-6 Colonel will bump them from this flight. Mattis.”

Holy shit, thought Carpenter to himself. He made the flight into Al Asad,

N 33 46′41.7″ E 42 26′6.9″ “The Cans” Al Asad Airbase
1100 Local GMT 18 April 2004

At Al Asad Air Base, Staff Sergeant Carpenter linked up with the 1st Marine Division Chaplain, Father Bill Devine, a Catholic priest who had been 7th Marines chaplain and who Sally and Rick. Devine was on his way to Al Qaim to spend time with the units who had just suffered casualties. Devine was a wreck, as was Carpenter. They both spent the night at Al Asad, then took a flight of Marine CH-53 Helicopters to Al Qaim the next day.

N 34 22′9.3″ E 41 05′39.3″ Al Qaim
2100 Local GMT 20 April 2004

After the helicopter flight, Carpenter took a convoy from Al Qaim into Husaybah. The Lima Marines were there to meet and greet Carpenter.

He got to Weapons Platoon, Lima Company, and discussed the events of the last few days. “I’d never seen guys who just seemed like they were gutted,” recalled Carpenter. The loss of the 4 Marines from Weapons Platoon as well as the Company Commander, Captain Gannon, was the first large loss of Marines killed in action that most Marine units had taken up to that point, with the exception of 12 Marines killed in action in Battalion 2/4 in Ramadi also in the month of April 2004.

Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav

34 23’45.06” N 40 58’28.74 E elev 179 meters Camp Gannon, Husaybah, Iraq
Local GMT 24 April 2004

Carpenter remembers Rick Gannon as a very down to earth kind of guy who gave a shit about the Marines. These are high compliments for a Marine Infantry Officer. Gannon’s death resonated through the entire Battalion.

Staff Sergeant Carpenter was walking through the Camp. He looked at the lone figure of a Marine from 2nd Platoon, a hard nosed Marine who had been in the first deployment with Lima Company. The lone Marine seemed a little depressed.

Carpenter sat beside the Marine, asking, “Hey, what’s going on buddy?”

“Staff Sergeant, I am just thinking about Captain Gannon.”

“Yeah.” Carpenter didn’t have to say very much.

“My dad didn’t play a big role in my upbringing,” continued the younger Marine. Carpenter took it in. It was uncharacteristic of most Marines to show very much emotion. But the feelings about Captain Gannon’s death rippled through the unit. “The first real father figure that I had was him,” continued the 2nd Platoon Marine. “I remember Captain Gannon coming out when I was on fire watch, like zero-two-hundred. He was just shooting the shit. He must have stood post with me for two hours asking about my family, where I was from.”

Carpenter had heard the story before, from many of the Lima Marines. In fact, he had grown to know Gannon from one of those conversations out in the Soccer Stadium in Karbala, when Gannon expressed a relentless, but sincere, interest in all of the Marines in Lima Company, regardless of rank.

Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav

N 34 22′9.3″ E 41 05′39.3″ Al Qaim
2100 Local GMT 25 April 2004

Carp is down in Al Qaim with his Weapons Platoon. The platoon is torn up emotionally. He is going through that with them. He gets the word from 3 runners to get on the satellite phone to Lima Company. He turns down the request. Then he gets called by Major Schreffler, who orders him up to Husaybah to take over Lima 1 because the platoon commander and the platoon sergeant were relieved. (45 minute)

Source:
11-10-07_Carpenter.wav

The Battle of Husaybah, unlike the First Battle of Fallujah chronicled in accounts like West’s No True Glory, was conclusive. There were very few reporters, and no politicians micro-managed Lieutenant Colonel Lopez’ decision to clear the town through two sweeps through the town on April 17 and April 18. Whereas Fallujah caused Major General Mattis to fume that he should have been allowed to “take Vienna” in a historical allusion, Husaybah was cleared decisively. In the weeks after the Battle of Husaybah on April 17 and 18, Captain Neal would observe a marked decline in insurgent activities in his zone of action — but it was not to last.

In the larger picture, a future Lima Commanding Officer, Rory Quinn, marks April 2004, as a transition point between two major phases of his account of the entire Iraq War. April 2004 was a tipping point, and moreover, it was a Black Swan event. In the financial world, the events of a month like October, 2008, are a Black Swan event. Black Swan events are large-impact, hard-to-predict events that we try to rationalize in retrospect. 9-11 was a Black Swan event. In the Iraq insurgency, April 2004 was a juncture where the Iraqi population tipped in its support towards the insurgents, lead by Al Qaeda cells, and away from the Americans. In Quinn’s estimate, the major achievement of the Marines during the long phase that commenced in April 2004 was simply not to lose. This is consistent with the non-defeatist attitude which is an integral part of the Marine Corps culture.

Lima Company remained in its based in Camp Husaybah, patrolling and conducting observation posts (OPs) in town. As Bing West will observe in his later book, The Strongest Tribe, the far reaches of Anbar, such as Al Qaim and Husaybah, will see faster progress than cities like Fallujah and Ramadi. This faster rate of progress may be due, in part, to the decisive action taken by 3/7 in April 2004 whereas a decisive assault on Fallujah was not conducted until the end of 2004, immediately after the American presidential election. Back in the States, the unit that would replace Lima 3/7 — Bravo 1/7 — observed the actions in Husaybah, and trained accordingly, as we will see. 1/7 would begin two important patterns in the coming years in Al Qaim. First, 1/7 would make repeated deployments to the same area, thus increasing the familiarity of its key leaders with the physical and human terrain; and the battalion would start using Combined Action Platoons by its second deployment to Al Qaim. But, at the end of April, 2004, these were still trends which would take years to evolve. At the end of April 2004, Lima Company still had a rising counterinsurgency to fight.

One Response to “2nd Draft Ch 10 – 17 Apr 04, Battle of Husaybah”

  1. josh rutherford

    I was a machine gunner with lima company wpns plt, I was supressing the house when we took at4 shot, I was across the street from the house that cpl gibson lcpl smith lcpl valdez and captain gannon all died in,I was on a building rooftop across the street. I was also there when vanluven got shot in the street. At my level at the time I didn’t even know that there were dead marines in the courtyard untill the fighting in that particular house was over. What I remember most was the insurgents yelling to the rooftop of the house to lt carrol f*** you americans. Eventualy I learned the facts, and was told we are not leaving untill the marines in that courtyard are recovered. So eventually the very fortified house caught fire and the insurgents came running out with guns raised, from that point on we faught our way back to our firmbase and set security on the outside perimiter. Waiting for an imenent attack. I’m not sure what the final count was but we were fighting house to house for 17 hours according to my memory. Marines.mil did a story while we were en route to conus, they intervued myself, lcpl tuttle,lcpl herbal about theincedents of that day. Ssgt rutherford joshua j currently school of infantry east combat instructor.

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About

This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.

About

This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.