Crowley Chronicles, 7th Edition
be sure to read about the mission to a group of iranian kurdish refugees, found in the 11 september entry, and how you can help them.
also, please drop him a line (CrowleyTM@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil) and show your support. he'll pass it on to the troops.
CROWLEY’S CHRONICLES 7th Edition 19 Sep 05
The 7th Edition of the Crowley’s Chronicles is dedicated to all who lost so much during Hurricane Katrina and to the men and women of the armed forces trying to restore all the areas devastated by the hurricane. Our thoughts are with you.
Over the past month I have been able to catch only a little news here and there as I travel. The horrible destruction of Hurricane Katrina reminds me of the time I deployed with the Marine Corps to Homestead, Florida after Hurricane Andrew during the early 1990s. Although the destruction was incredible, the fact that the USMC was deployed within the United States to help our fellow Americans gave us a great feeling of pride. So often we travel the globe assisting other countries, it was nice to be there to serve the people in Florida. I know our military now serving in the New Orleans area will feel the same pride. Those of us overseas wish we could be there to help as well, but until we are called upon we will continue the fight in Iraq.
August 12th – The battle with the wildlife in our building continues. At around 0130 I heard strange noises coming from my trashcan. I gave chase to the mouse but he vanished. Since I was up, I left the light on to read and a short time later the mouse returned. I gave hot pursuit but for such a small animal he is extremely fast and he exited my room with me right on his tail. As I gained on him he ducked under my neighbor’s door; unfortunately by this time it was 0330 and I decided I might be the one taking a beating if I woke up my neighbor. Later I learned that we had a porcupine in the building as well. I didn’t even know there were porcupines in Iraq. I left him to the experts that managed to capture him alive. Mice and porcupines are preferred over scorpions, cobras and camel spiders.
August 13th – 17th I was busy typing interview summaries.
August 18th – Traveled to Camp Ripper, which is attached to Al Asad, to arrange the transfer of IED components for the Marine Corps Museum.
August 19th – Met with LtCol Ken Cross, one of my roommates from The Basic School, and he took me to the flight line to see his F-18 Hornet. I conducted interviews with members of his VMFA-142 (Flying Gators) Squadron while he flew his mission. During the interviews, one of the pilots relayed how helpless he felt as he witnessed the Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) blow up two weeks earlier near Haditha. As he flew over, providing aerial support, he saw the AAV go up in a ball of flames. He will never forget the radio calls for assistance. There was one survivor from the tremendous blast that reduced 28 tons of armor to multiple pieces scattered over an area of approximately 300 meters. The first calls for a medivac were calmer than he would have expected. As time passed and the surviving Marine’s condition worsened and the reality of the brutal attack set in, the calls became more urgent. Anyone involved in a medical evacuation knows that no matter how quickly help arrives it always seems like a lifetime. Other pilots walked me through their missions when they were able to engage and neutralize the enemy from their F-18s. Being able to kill the terrorist gave them a great sense of mission accomplishment.
August 20th-22nd – I was busy typing interview summaries.
August 23rd – I conducted interviews with members of several different squadrons including HMLA-269 and HMH-465. During one of the interviews a pilot detailed how they had witnessed a 72-ton A1M1 tank suffer a catastrophic improvised explosive devise (IED) hit; the explosives were huge and they destroyed one of our mightiest weapons. The Huey helicopter set down so members of the aircrew could assist the surviving tank crew. Amazingly, all the members survived and were in fair condition after being pulled out of the burning tank. As fate would have it, none were to survive the day. They were loaded in a HMMV to be transported for additional medical care. The HMMV was hit by another IED killing the tank crew.
August 24th – The water pipe to Al Asad was blown up by terrorists once again. The base has other means for water but the cities that rely on the water main do not.
Today I attended the last graduation ceremony at the Iraqi Police Academy on Al Asad. The facility was scheduled to be closed after the graduation and Police training will be conducted at a different location. After the graduation I proceeded to Mortuary Affairs to conduct interviews. These are the kind of interviews you do not look forward to.
Mortuary Affairs has the duty of collecting the remains of fallen warriors in the field when the affect units cannot complete the task for various reasons. They also are responsible for preparing all the “Angels” for their flights home. They have a job that tends to go in spurts. Often there are days of down time which they wish could last forever, however anytime a military personnel is killed in western Iraq they are called upon. Unfortunately during the first week of August they had one of their busiest weeks with the loss of the AAV and sniper team from 3rd Battalion 25th Marines. There were also other service members killed during the same timeframe and members of Mortuary Affairs had to go on three recovery missions. At the scene they prepare a sketch, prepare a grid for searching, and document everything found. If they can ID personal belongings or body parts they bag them. Anything they find that can’t be identified they place in other bags for shipment to the US where other teams attempt to identify items. During busy times they often work for well over 24 hours straight in an incredibly stressful work environment; some recovery efforts can take nine hours or longer at the scene. They are proud of their work and all feel honored to be able to give the Angels a professional and respectful send-off during a ceremony at the airplane.
August 25th – The highlight of the day came while I was walking from the building I work in to Wing Headquarters. A Captain walked by and we both said the proper greetings. He then stopped and asked if I was the Crowley from “Crowley’s Chronicles”. That has since happened several times on Al Asad. All the feedback has been great.
August 26th – Today a New Jersey newspaper, The Herald News, ran an interview with my parents and also included excerpts from the Chronicles as well as a full page of photographs. I received numerous emails from parents of Marines in units that I’ve mentioned in earlier editions. At times you fear what parents will think although I do my best to keep out details. All of the parents thought the Chronicles have helped them to better understand what their Marines are going through. Yes it scares them, but they also received a better idea about the living conditions at various bases as well as the mission.
August 27th – Got mouse! Another victory in the war against insurgent mice. Today we were hit by indirect fire (IDF) once again on Al Asad. Although this seems to be the safest base I spend time at, it shows that nowhere in Iraq is really safe. I received word that when the Iraqi Police Academy shut down they still had 23 goats as well as other food left in the freezer. I put them in touch with the Civil Affairs Group (CAG) to hopefully get the food out to needy families.
August 28th – 29th Spent two days attempting to line up various units to interview. Most are very busy getting ready to turn over their mission to new units.
August 30th – 31st Conducted interviews with members of the CLB-2. During an interview with a Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) he talked about one day during Operation Matador when twelve vehicles were hit by IEDs. The Marine Corps receives a replacement vehicle for those destroyed usually within eighteen days, but the Marines can never be replaced. When maintenance recovers damaged vehicles, either an officer or SNCO go through the vehicles first to clean the interior before the young Marines have to work on it. He went on to talk about all the amazing community support from the United States public – people and organizations sending letters and items for the Marines that they’ve never even met. All the Marines have been motivated by the care packages. The CWO ended by telling me a funny story; he didn’t want his family to worry about him being in Iraq so he did not tell them he was coming. One day he called his mother and asked her to get a pen and paper to write down his new address. He spelled out Al Asad and his mother asked “Where is that?”
I interviewed a reserve SSgt who is a narcotics officer a couple of towns away from where I grew up in New Jersey. This is the second tour he’s volunteered for to serve his country in Iraq. He spoke in graphic details about the hardest day of his life when his leader, mentor, and friend was killed during a convoy. During the journey a huge blast and mushroom cloud went up over the convoy. The normal procedure is for the Convoy Commander to call him but there was silence as he tried to reach him 4-5 times hoping that maybe he was already out of his vehicle helping - it wasn’t to be. He was the assistant Convoy Commander and had to take charge as he raced up to see the mangled hull of what a minute earlier had been a HMMV. With a key figure of the unit killed and other Marines wounded and trapped in a destroyed vehicle, he had to act. He and the other Marines had to pull together as a team to save the remaining Marines. All the years of training took over as he had to push the emotion back. Through extreme effort the Marines were able to physically pull together to lift the flipped over HMMV off their fellow Marine pinned underneath. Emotions ran high for at first they thought she had been killed and then she came to and opened her eyes. This was a bright moment in a devastating day. The SSgt remembered a funny story about his fallen friend. The CWO always took care of the Marines and tried to brighten their days whenever he had the chance. One day the SSgt was standing in front of the unit formation – all the Marines were standing at attention and they began to laugh. During a formation you never laugh; the SSgt looked behind him to find the CWO wearing a glove and doing a Michael Jackson dance. The SSgt couldn’t help but laugh as well. The CWO will be missed by all, especially his four-year-old daughter.
A Sgt talked about his worst day in Iraq when an IED hit their convoy. One of the unit’s youngest Marines was trapped in the vehicle as it burned. Marines were finally able to pull their burning buddy out. Months later, the young Marine had recovered enough from his injuries and volunteered to come back to Iraq where he continues to motivate all the other Marines daily.
During an interview with the Commanding Officer, a Colonel, he spoke of all the tremendous accomplishments as well as the great losses of his unit. During one of his unit’s combat logistic patrols during Operation Matador in the city of Hit he relayed a story I hadn’t heard. They were resupplying and assisting the infantry when they came under heavy attack. Two women Marines were with the convoy and jumped into action engaging the insurgents. Both earned Combat Action Ribbons and one had a confirmed enemy kill. Every Marine is a rifleman first and foremost. The Colonel has a number of Reservists attached to his unit and he stated you can’t tell the difference – all his Reservists volunteered to deploy with the unit. He said that community support cannot be stressed enough. They have received items from VFWs, Girl Scouts, Brownies, Churches, Schools, 4H Clubs, and numerous other organizations and the Key Volunteer Network. “American support is swamping us, buses full of packages.” During the Gulf War they received more letters than packages, now they receive more packages of items the Marines need. He could not be more proud of his unit and he stated that this was the highlight of his 28-year career – the Marines motivate him.
A GySgt told me this was his third OIF deployment and that his wife and three children told him it was his last. He could have stayed in the states for his knee operation but volunteered to come back with his Marines. As Marines we have two families both of which are near and dear to our hearts.
A young Cpl on his second tour talked about how the biggest threat has shifted to IEDs. During a single day in the city of Hit while they were establishing the Firm bases within the city, they found 17 IEDs. Since he has been in Iraq this deployment, he has discovered 24 IEDs and 40 land mines – five blew up on his men. He says his mother prays every night and his wife cries a lot – he has only seen her for two months during the past two years.
September 1st – Took the day off to catch up on laundry and sleep.
September 2nd – Conducted final liaison for an upcoming trip and packed my bags. Received an email from my wife stating that gas is $3.49 a gallon and it cost her $120 to fill up our Suburban!!! In the same email it went onto say she was going to drive to visit her parents and then my parents. I wrote back asking if she could take our three year old’s electric jeep instead of the Suburban. When we lived in Minnesota in 1998, you could still buy gas for $0.89! How can gas go up so high while we are helping oil/gas producing countries all around the world?
September 3rd – My ride to the airfield did not arrive so I had to scramble to find other transportation. Due to time constraints, I never made it by my office to pick up the care packages I had planned on bringing with me. I boarded a CH-53 helicopter for a 2 ½ hour flight to Korean Village in western Iraq. The base received its name because the buildings had been used by Korean workers who constructed the highways through that part of Iraq. I was shown to the VIP quarters that were actually nice for Iraq. They came complete with a cooler full of ice and Cokes. I conducted eleven interviews on my first day with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (2ndLAR).
During one of the interviews a LT talked about some of his greatest leadership challenges in Iraq. He talked about a sad day when two Cpls he had worked with for three years were trapped in a burning 7-ton that had been flipped over by an IED. The IED had contained a napalm type fluid and the rest of the Marines tried valiantly to get through the flames but could not. They tried fire extinguishers, dirt, and a water truck but nothing would help. Marines had to be physically restrained so they would not be killed in their attempts to save their brothers. When reinforcements arrived on the scene, the Lt sent the platoon back to the base so they would not witness him bagging their friends. On another day his convoy was hit by an IED resulting in six severely wounded Marines including some with lost limbs and one Marine with his brain exposed. The Corpsman was in the vehicle that was hit and suffered numerous wounds including a broken leg and broken arm. He had other Marines assist him as he moved from wounded Marine to wounded Marine treating their wounds and instructing other Marines how to treat them. The Lt was sure two would die but thanks to the wounded Corpsman’s heroic efforts all survived. Four of the Marines including the Corpsman are still recovering five months later. The Lt comes from a very patriotic family – both of his parents served in Vietnam, his father was a Marine and his mother was in the Nurse Corps. They couldn’t be prouder of him.
A LCpl stated simply when asked why he is here: “We’re getting blown up so civilians back home don’t. We can fight back.”
September 4th – Went on a desert patrol for close to four hours with members of 2ndLAR. We drove through vast expanses of open desert and once in awhile we would come across a small settlement or herders. The purpose of the patrols is to deny the enemy use of the desert surrounding the base and thus preventing rocket and mortar attacks. While I was in Korean Village it was working since we did not receive any IDF. The desert can make for a long patrol.
September 5th – Conducted interviews and attended 2ndLAR meeting during which they were planning for an up coming offensive in the city of Ar Rutbah. I caught a convoy to the Joint Border Control Center (JBCC) that was actually located east of Korean Village and nowhere close to the border. The JBCC is actually an outpost for the 2ndLAR, which overlooks the city of Ar Rutbah. The day I arrived the base was bombarded by six mortar rounds several of which landed within the living areas. One took out a generator located about forty feet from the showers, another one landed in the middle of the billeting tents. Luckily no one was hit. This is a prime example of why the offensive was being planned.
September 6th – Conducted interviews all day at the JBCC and then went on a CAG mission that night to the local power plant. We met with the managers of the plant and discussed how we could increase power output to that area of Iraq. We gave out numerous soccer balls, dolls, and other toys to the children of the workers who all live at the plant. There were goats, sheep, and lots of dogs wandering around. I caught a convoy back to Korean Village that night and arrived there at 0030. During the convoy an Army unit drove by us in the opposite direction and threw a flash bang at us. Not funny, there are enough things blowing up without idiots like that on the road.
A Cpl at the JBCC compared his three tours in Iraq; one of the highlights for him came during the elections held in Iraq. He was impressed when the polling location he was providing security for came under mortar attack - the voters stayed in line to vote.
Another Cpl talked about his two deployments to Iraq and a deployment to Haiti. (Many of the Marines have deployed to Afghanistan as well). During Operation Matador he will never forget seeing an AAV hit by a huge IED. His SSgt came stumbling out on fire and dropped to his knees. The Cpl helped another Marine and then saw his Plt Commander covered in blood. His buddies ran into the burning AAV and pulled out the rest of the Marines – they are true heroes. He warned that he has seen too many Marines return to the states and lose themselves in alcohol. The community needs to continue the support when we return. Two things that stood out in his mind from Haiti was the fact that he saw a person walk up to another man and execute him on the street. The second was when his SSgt fell neck deep into human waste – they nicknamed him “the plunger”.
September 7th – Conducted interviews with Charlie Company 2ndLAR and downloaded photos and taped interviews from the previous two days.
A GySgt talked in great detail about a mission they were involved in – “MOAG” which stands for Mother Of All Generators. The massive generator had to be moved from Jordan through the unit’s area of operation. The vehicles carrying the generator could only move 5 km an hour. A private security force walked along the road while the USMC and Army provided additional security as well as sweeping the route for mines and IEDs. Other workers had to actually sweep the route clean of any rocks or debris on the road. The two trailers holding the generator had 196 tires each. 2ndLAR escorted the generator for 3 ½ weeks. When the generator reached its destination and was installed it boosted Iraq’s energy output by 10% nationwide.
September 8th – Conducted interviews with Echo Company 2ndLAR as well as with the K-9 handlers attached to 2ndLAR. I was given a first hand view of how vicious Gordon (a big German Shepard) could be. I was actually able to pet the Air Force dog there without losing any limbs. These dogs are trained in attack and explosive detection.
Interviewed a Lt at Korean Village who talked about the first Marine he lost and how hard it was to tell his platoon. The Marine died during the medical evacuation flight. After the interview we talked for a while and I told him how hard it was for me when I had my first Marine die in my arms back in the early 1990s. Unfortunately it happens all too often and continues to be one of the most difficult things to deal with as a leader; as officers we are responsible for our Marines. Two other hard deaths his platoon had to deal with were those of a Marine’s brother and another Marine’s father back in the states. Both deaths were sudden – Marines are prepared to lose friends in combat but deaths back in the states come as an awful shock. He finished by stating that the United States made a stand in Iraq and other countries will think twice in the future.
A Captain spoke about all the great new equipment the Marine Corps is fielding as fast as possible: new improved SAPI plates (body armor), new weapon scopes, new means of communications, new weapons, and armor. He stated we are winning the war but the media fails to cover our successes.
September 9th – Convoyed to the Port of Entry (POE) at Waleed. Waleed is on the Syrian border and I drove there in an LAV. The LAV is a great vehicle with tremendous firepower, better armor then an AAV, and I don’t think there is another vehicle capable of matching its speed in a rough desert environment. The reason we cannot use them to replace AAVs is because they can only hold a couple of Marines in the back vs. an AAV, which can hold upwards of twenty. Here I conducted interviews with part of Kilo 3/10, an artillery unit that has been converted into infantry and attached to 2ndLAR. During their tour at the border they have seen vehicles packed with more items then you could ever imagine. Buses and cars look like they have loads on top of them that would fill an eighteen-wheeler. They have been hit by two suicide bombers (SVBIEDS). One detonated by the Iraqi Border Police headquarters located across the street and down a little from the Marines’ facility. The blast caused structural damage to the Marines’ three-story building and the roof was covered in body parts. Iraqi officials and civilians were killed during the two SVBIEDS; remarkably none of the Marines were killed. The reason the vehicles got so close is because the Iraqi Police responsible for checking the vehicles prior to entry into the POE failed to do their job. It was a hard way to learn their lesson as they bagged five fellow officers. I was given a walking tour of the POE and we walked out towards Syria. It was amazing as I looked around and saw tons of trash, burned out vehicles and decaying buildings – this is your first and lasting image as you enter Iraq.
A Lt at Waleed talked about how corrupt the border area was and how little enforcement had been done by Iraqi officials when they first arrived. The Marines’ presence and professionalism has rubbed off on the workers who now have a new pride in their duties. They wear uniforms and have been trained by the Marines on how to use their weapons. He went on to talk about the tremendous community support from various organizations including AnySoldier.com that sent 200-300 boxes to members of the Battalion. The letters from the schoolchildren always make the Marines laugh.
September 10th – Wrapped up interviews at Waleed and prepared for my cross-desert convoy. We drove 1 ½ hours south from Waleed as Marines drove 1 ½ hours north from the POE at Trebil on the Jordanian border. There were no roads - just open desert. At the halfway point I joined the new convoy and off we went. I saw one coyote and a number of hawk-like birds. We also passed an old fort that the Iraqi Border Police still utilize. As with many countries you realize how many hundreds of miles of open border there are. As we approached Trebil I could see the line of trucks waiting at both sides of the border stretching as far as the eye could see. Sometimes trucks have to wait in line for up to four weeks. Believe me, there is very little around in the way of restaurants or stores. Many truckers get robbed because they have to carry cash in order to pay huge taxes adding up to thousands of dollars at the border. Families fare better and usually make it through within a couple of days. Once again as I toured the POE I was amazed at the amount of trash everywhere. They have made an attempt to clean the area by pushing all the trash into unoccupied rooms in the building! I conducted interviews with members of Kilo 3/10 stationed at Trebil.
September 11th – I was scheduled to take a convoy back to Korean Village but decided to skip it in order to visit Camp No Man’s Land – an Iranian Kurdish refugee camp. The convoy was hit by an IED that totally destroyed an Army HMMV. We loaded up two 7-ton trucks with all the extra food from the base since new food was arriving with the new unit taking over the facility. We only had to drive approximately a half a mile to Camp No Man’s Land. Everyone came out of the shelters to greet us as our convoy pulled in complete with several gun trucks as well as the food trucks. Close to two hundred refugees are trapped between Iraq and Jordan. It is a stretch of land approximately 1-2 kilometers wide from which you can easily see both counties. Jordan lays claim to the land although Saddam used to control the land. Neither country will claim the refugees who have been searching for a home for 27 years when they fled Iran because the Shah was executing their people. Of the 200 refugees approximately 130 are small children. They have nothing and have lived in the camp for seven months. Prior to that they had lived in Iraqi government housing next to the POE but were forced to leave by the government. Before that they were living in a refugee camp near Ramadi, Iraq where violence was a way of life. Murders, rapes and thefts caused them to flee as part of the camp was closed due to problems. And their lives have been like that for 27 years. Their new home has no water or buildings but they have managed to tap into a power line that helps and they have constructed shelters out of cardboard, wood, and trash. Some have tents to reside in; they utilize tarps around buckets for their bathrooms. They live in the filth and dirt of the desert trapped with no country to call home. Once again it is up to the Marines to assist the needy although it is not our mission and both Jordan and Iraq would prefer that we did not help them. All the Marines were so happy after the food delivery. The people were all great and the kids loved us. Once again I had to drink hot tea on a hot afternoon – they kept offering all of us food and drinks but I told them to save it for their children. I know there are so many people in the world that need help including those in the United States, but if anyone would like to assist the trapped refugees you can send items to:
2ndLt Ruckema, Jason R
1/11 A Btry 1stPlt
FPO AP 96426-0425
Due to the higher elevations at Trebil the temperatures were already between 62 – 94 degrees. The Marines said it had actually snowed there over the winter. It will be a long winter in Camp No Man’s Land if a government does not step in to help. The members of the refugee committee that head the camp told me that close to three thousand of their village had been executed by the Shah of Iran including many of their parents. All they want is a home where they can have their cultural, language, and religious rights. 2ndLt Ruckema told me the mission to their camp was the best thing he has done since being in Iraq. “It is not that often that you get the chance to help people that need it that badly.” he said. The Marines also try to keep an eye on the refugee camp to make sure people do not attack them. 1stLt Trebile with Kilo 2/10 feels sorry for Lt Ruckema for taking over the POE. It’s tough to help the refugees when there’s no official support for the mission. He stated we have a military mission and the refugees don’t fit into it. Members of his unit had care packages sent for the refugees to help out as best they could. He equated their situation to the one the Jewish people faced after WW II while searching for a home. Lt Trebile has nieces and nephews the same ages as many of the refugees and it’s very hard for him to see them grow up that way. The Marines just want to give the children a chance at having a normal life. Most of the adults only know life in a refugee camp. It is just one more sad story. (And yes, it was a common joke about Lt Trebile running the POE of Trebil.)
September 12th – I was able to catch an Army convoy headed to Korean Village. Nothing against the other armed forces but when will I learn? I traveled with the same convoy traveling along the same route that was hit by an IED on the previous day. I appreciate the ride but I have to comment it is the first time that I’ve seen soldiers in the vehicle with unloaded M-16s. The .50 cal machine gunner was sitting on the floor between the rear two seats instead of manning his gun. When I made it clear to him what his job was, he stated he understood but continued to sit down. They have been in Iraq for nine months. So it was no surprise as we continued on our convoy that it was hit by a SVBIED. Luckily a team of Marines was ahead of the convoy and engaged the vehicle. Unfortunately the vehicle exploded killing several civilians that were walking along the highway. As we switched to the other side of the highway to avoid the vehicle totally engulfed in flames, we could see the terrorist burning as well as body parts from the civilians covering four lanes of highway. Prior to coming to Iraq, I had been told more Army convoys are hit by terrorist attacks than the USMC convoys because the Army does not appear alert when they travel. I don’t know if there are any reports tracking the number of attacks for the different armed forces versus the number of convoy hours put in on the roads. I would like to see that. My wife is always upset with me when I tell her I took an Army convoy. Believe me I know there are some great Army units out here - I have worked with them, patrolled with them, and had fun with them. Unfortunately there are a few bad apples in every organization.
I arrived back at Korean Village and learned that 2ndLAR had completed a successful sweep of Ar Rutbah detaining somewhere in the neighborhood of 61 suspected insurgents. I also learned that there was a flight scheduled that night at 2300 that would eventually get me back to Al Asad. The flight seemed to last forever as we made several stops around Iraq prior to setting down after 0200 at Al Asad. Prior to going to my room I stopped by the computer help desk to make sure my computer would work when I went to my office. I made it back to my room around 0300 to discover someone had been eating my food and sleeping in my bed. Mice had taken up residence in my bed and eaten plenty of my food. My neighbor got a confirmed kill at around 0315 when a mouse fled my room into his. A heavy flight bag ended the mouse’s flight. I ended up doing laundry and reading until 0515.
September 13th – Slept in and recovered from my trip.
September 14th – Went to my office and could not even access my computer! Marines began working on the problem. Anytime I take my computer off the system I lose my IP address and they do a very poor job keeping track. Good news: I received twenty care packages to forward to Marines. Bad news: they never got my computer working.
September 15th – Marines still trying to fix my computer problem. Received four more care packages to forward to Marines at the “front”. They finally fixed my computer problem around 1900 and I went through the 100 or so emails until 2330 at which time I started to sort the items in the boxes to split between three forward positions – Haditha Dam, Firm Base 1 in Hit, and Firm Base 2 in Hit. At 0130 I thought I was done when I took some trash out into the hall and saw more care packages that I had left stacked in the hall. I continued to sort until 0240 and had to get up in time to make my 1000 appointment at Camp Ripper. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time and effort to support the Marines – we all greatly appreciate it!!!
September 16th – Loaded up a truck and drove the care packages to Camp Ripper where I delivered some to the CAG staff, four to women Marines, and the rest to convoys headed out to the locations. Unfortunately this time I couldn’t personally deliver the boxes to the forward positions because I’m expecting two more members from the Historical Division to arrive at Al Asad at anytime (they still haven’t arrived!). I conducted a number of interviews with India Company 3rd Battalion 25th Marines. During one of the interviews a barrage of rocket IDF hit nearby and you can hear the impacts on the tape. Carolyn always wants me to stay at Al Asad where it’s safe – once again I would say this is one of the safest places except for one problem, it’s located in Iraq. I did get some nice pictures of the dirt rising from the impact locations. No one was hurt as far as I know.
During an interview a LCpl talked about the coordinated attacks launched against multiple Marine positions in the city of Hit on September 4, 2005. His Firm Base was hit by two SVBIEDs to launch the attack, and then small arms, machine gun, and RPG fire engaged their position. A foot patrol out at that time came under heavy attack as well as the other bases in Hit. After a heated battle the attack ended when US tanks and attack helicopters arrived to support the grunts. No Marines were killed but unfortunately an Iraqi Soldier was. The LCpl talked about a great friend he had made in Iraq; the Corpsman and he were both on EMS squads in NY and they planned to get their families together after the deployment. His friend was killed by an IED.
September 17th – Almost suffered a breakdown when once again my computer would not work on the network. They gave away my IP address! It took the communications Marines three days to get it right. Luckily, a dozen Marines restrained me so I didn’t do any harm to the communication Marines. I cut them a lot of slack since I am a communications officer by trade, but enough is enough. I believe my blood pressure has gone through the roof and I now fear coming into my office to face my computer. After my computer was finally put back on line in the afternoon, I downloaded photos and recordings from the previous day.
September 18th – Learned that I might have problems with my military orders since the Historical Division recently relocated from the Washington Navy Yard to Quantico MCB and falls under a different chain of command. We are trying to work out the details and I just hope I have a job come October 1, 2005 at the beginning of the new fiscal year. Iraq would not be a good place to have to job hunt. And once again I am typing this and it is now September 19th at 0120.
READERS’ COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS:
1.) “The visitation for LCpl Tim Bell (Lima 3/25) was from 11AM to 4PM on Sat. Aug.13, 2005 at the Lakota West High School in Ohio. I felt going was the least I could do to show my respect. I put on my button up, black, short sleeve shirt, it kind of makes me look like a priest, I guess that's why people were extra nice to me at the visitation. I arrived at Lakota West High School at 1540.
LCpl Bell's casket was in the middle of the gym floor, young Marine standing guard. Christian and Military music played off to the side of a huge projection screen showing movies of the young Lance Corporal. Hundreds of pictures hung on 6 or 7 easels. There were about 18-22 Marines in the gym. The crowd was light because I've arrived so late. I looked at the pictures, checked out his framed dress blues and then touched his flag draped casket. At that time "Amazing Grace" started playing on the pipes. I started to head for the door. When I got to the door, an older Marine said to one of the younger guys to work the doors. The younger Marine said "Roger that Gunny". I realized it was 1556, and with this being a Military event, when they said over at 1600 they meant it. So I went back to my vehicle and drove it over to where the Hearse was. As the Marines wheeled LCpl Bell from the gym, I got some good pictures of the procedure. I'll send some photos to you in Iraq. I read later that over 1,000 people had visited that day, and because so many Ohio Marines had been killed, the local Marine ranks were being stretched thin on attending all the funerals. The LCpl is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”
QUESTION: My wife asked – “With all the Services for local Marines from Lima 3/25, I've noticed some are buried locally and some are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. What determines who is buried in Arlington?” CC – Cleveland, Ohio
ANSWER: I am glad you could make it to the service. I’m sure there were plenty of other services that same day. I buried one of our Marines in Arlington last year. What hit me when I stood in Arlington at the gravesite was how many had died in Iraq and Afghanistan – the gravestones went on and on. It is one thing to read the numbers but another thing to see the graves. The stone next to me had about 10 names on it. They were all killed in a personnel carrier. The following is a list of eligibility per www.arlingtoncemetary.org/funeral_information/index.html.
2.) “Thank you for the postcard from Iraq. It has a place on the refrigerator with pictures of Luca. I feel like it's a historical treasure. Thank you for all the photos and information. Fortunately the internet makes it seem like a smaller world.”
QUESTION: “Do you work all weekend in Iraq? Are you able to relax at all while there or are you constantly worried that something might happen? I guess you have to stay on guard all the time.” SL&DL - Newburyport, Massachusetts
ANSWER: I tend to work some every day, there really aren’t too many other things for me to do; I read, watch movies, lift. My main hobby in the states is fishing and where I’m currently located that isn’t an option. I’m very relaxed at Al Asad – it seems to be one of the safest bases I’ve been at. We still receive IDF once in awhile but not like what I see during my travels. All bases have multiple levels of tight security so I’m always relaxed. I don’t worry about issues I can’t control – IEDs, IDF, small arms fire and all the rest are all part of being in a war zone. It’s just another day in Iraq.
3.) “TR gave me a copy of your latest articles. Great stuff!! You really hit home when you described the ceremonies of the fallen Marines. I think it's wonderful what you are doing over in Iraq.” SS – Reading, PA
4.) “Keith and I very much enjoyed reading your Chronicle. Okay, not ALL of it but we do enjoy reading it from your point of view and not the left wing media. Please keep in touch and let us know when the boxes arrive. Matthew wrote you a personal note and hopes you can email him back after the boxes arrive. I told him you were too busy to write snail mail! We think about you all the time and Pray for your Safe and Speedy return to this Great Country of Ours! God Bless.” The K Family - Naperville, Illinois
5.) “Outstanding 6th edition!” Major JPP – Washington D.C.
6.) “I want to thank you for providing such detailed info and updates. Thanks for all you're doing for the overall effort.
Stay Safe & Semper Fi.” Colonel (Ret) WM – North Carolina
7.) “It was eye opening! I am a former Marine 2nd BN 3rd Marines (Grunt) Vietnam 1967-68.” AS - Ohio
8.) “Absolutely fantastic stuff. Keep safe and know that even North of the border, there are many who support you and wish we were also in the fight.” General S
9.) QUESTION: “I have been asked to write a letter to the parish regarding the school supply collection, i.e. why we were anxious to make it happen, etc. Would you give me your thoughts with emphasis on what it means to the Iraqi kids to receive school supplies from U.S. Marines as well as what it means to you and those you serve with.”
JC – Wayne, New Jersey
ANSWER: As I travel the streets of Iraq there are always two things that remain constant: first are the smiles on the children as they wave at us as we pass them and second are the dirt, filth, and trash everywhere even in what are reported to be nice neighborhoods. The average Iraqi family has very little and in a poor third world nation where an income of $100 a month would be respectable, there is little they can do to improve their situation. The United States provides billions and billions of dollars in aid around the world every year. At times it is hard for Americans to see first hand what the results are. While the military is in Iraq we have a unique opportunity to witness the difference that aid from the United States makes. The US Government is definitely doing their part by rebuilding hospitals, schools, and important infrastructure throughout the country. The problem the Marines witness is that the children now have brand new or updated schools but no materials to help them learn. Schools in the United States take it for granted that there will be paper, pencils, chalk, craft items… for the children to use and learn with. In Iraq there is nothing, the families cannot afford the items and the schools have no money to provide even the basic tools to aid in the learning process.
Marines are laying their lives on the line to help improve the way of life in Iraq and nothing makes them happier then to see the children benefiting from their sacrifices. Numerous times during interviews I have conducted, the Marines and Soldiers have said it is all worth it when they see the young smiling children. Items collected by caring organizations such as Our Lady of Consolation Church can and will make all the difference in the life of an Iraqi child. While providing them with the tools to learn we have also created a life-long friend for America. Every child who has a Marine spend a minute or two with them, or give them candy, or provide them with paper and pencils will forever remember that day. We are building a new nation one person at a time. Your generosity by collecting items for the children will impact the future of Iraq for years to come. Do not look at the school supplies as making a difference for a few months or even a year – the kindness will be remembered by the people for a lifetime. The Marines are happy to be part of the mission to help. Our job sometimes focuses too often around neutralizing the enemy (killing them), after all we are Marines, but now we are also afforded the opportunity to be more than that. We are role models and providers for the children. Your contributions that we deliver allow us to show our caring side and allow our young Marines to see first hand the good that is taking place; they see why they are dying in a foreign land and they return to the fight with a new vigor to triumph for the future of the children. I am honored to serve my country in Iraq but along with that I am thrilled to be able to make a difference in the lives of so many Iraqis through your efforts. Keep up the great work and together as one team we can make a difference in the world.
Semper Fi, LtCol Tim Crowley
10.) QUESTION: “Have you had a chance to interview my son, Michael? I read some of your chronicles…they make my heart hurt! Michael is with the 1/5, A Co., Fort Hurricane Point, Ramadi. How is he? I pray for his spiritual, physical, and emotional well being every minute of my day. Thanks for letting me know about his living conditions. I knew his sleeping arrangements were so much better than his last deployment. I didn’t know about the food. I have been sending him bi-monthly care packages with snacks, lots of tuna, dried and canned fruit, beef jerky, etc. Now I understand why he kept asking for more and more tuna!
RE: your request about reading your chronicles from a parent’s perspective, I am one of those parents who handles things better if I know everything…even if the news makes “my heart hurt.” I try to read and listen to all the news re: 1/5. I internet with two groups of 1/5 parents from all over the nation. When those five Marines were KIA from Alpha Co., Michael called me in the middle of my workday to talk about it. He couldn’t give me any details, but I knew it was a rough time for him. The interesting thing was that by the end of the conversation, he was actually saying things to encourage me. Reading your chronicles helps me to see the real picture…from the horrific to the amusing (i.e. critter in the shower). Please keep chronicling and sharing… I would actually like to read all that you have on the 1/5. Thank you for listening.” DG – Rapid City, South Dakota
ANSWER: I did not have the pleasure of interviewing your son. I’m happy to hear that parents of the Marines like to read the Chronicles, that was a concern of mine.
11.) “I’ve now read all of your chronicles. They are phenomenal…thank you so much for sharing them. My son, Michael, gave the eulogy for LCpl Flores at the 1/5 memorial service.” DG – Rapid City, South Dakota
12.) (Sent to the Editor and forwarded to LtCol Crowley) “My husband and I just sat down by our pool and read all of Tim’s Chronicles you sent. I am incredibly grateful for your son’s heroic efforts. And, I can't help but think that many of the interviews with the Marines that have seen so much death and destruction are a little bit helped by telling their stories. I pray so.
Captain John Maloney, my Son's CO of Charlie Company, 1/5 was killed June 15th along with Eric Heldt, and there are still four additional Marines at the San Antonio burn center recovering....My husband and I, and Nick's new wife Mandy were there for deployment on March 1, 2005. Nick's 2nd Iraq tour. I had met Captain Maloney twice before over the summer, as I traveled from our home in Boise, Idaho as often as possible to spend time with our Son. I would head to Camp San Mateo on Camp Pendleton and wait while they were in formation. Captain Maloney approached me each time, very handsome, friendly and praising my Son. Well.....he left formation of his men March 1st, and walked towards myself, husband Mike and Mandy, our Daughter-in-law. He greeted me with "Hi, You’re Nick's Mom - thanks for being here today." I then introduced him to my husband and Mandy. Then, Captain Maloney taking note of the ever-present tears in my eyes, took my hand and said "Don't worry, I will bring your son home safe and sound in October 2005". I will never forget his words of comfort. I couldn't believe he would make such a promise, but it did comfort me a bit. I replied "I'm counting on that Captain Maloney". Nick said whenever Captain Maloney saw him, he would yell "LCpl! Call your Mother! LCpl, Call your Wife! LCpl! Use my phone!" Well, now that we are close to this deployment being over, (but there is still great danger in getting them to Kuwait – I’m holding my breath until they are back on US soil) I can't help but think that Captain John Maloney watched over my son and all his "men" while on earth and is now watching over them in heaven. Sadly, he has greeted two more from Charlie 1/5 since June 15th. Both as usual, excellent Marines.
That was very thoughtful of you to send the "back" chronicles and we are deeply appreciative. Your Son is a Hero in our eyes. He doesn't have to be in Iraq. Please thank him for his service and sharing his writing talents with his countrymen. Never underestimate the loyalty and brotherhood of Marine Parents - Tim - should you need anything, we are here for you. Semper Fi!” LT & MT – Boise, Idaho
13.) “I would also like to add how very proud I am of today's Marines. In the middle 1950s I was a Drill Instructor at Parris Island and I'm sure you've heard the "Old Corps" expression from every generation but from the film I've seen of these "Grunts" in action they are magnificent.
Tell the guys not to worry about the “Cindy Sheehans”, we love and back them 100%. I have a large mailing list of former Marines, Navy and Air Force. If we weren't so old we would be right there with you. I will forward your editions to them.” Semper Fi, RH
14.) “Loved the 6th edition of the Crowley’s Chronicles. Most prior military thirst for the truth of what is going on in Iraq. Since the national media really seem to hate the military, we only hear the negative comments and how rotten our military is. Thank you for providing it. It is being sent out to all of my friends who will welcome it.” Phyllis
15.) “Well, all I can say is, Well Done. And a big Navy E for all. Its a far cry from steaming up and down I corp. and II corp.shooting 5 inch 38's at nothing, back in 1969. Sometimes this old squid gets misty eyed for all the work you great warriors are doing. I wish I was with you all. So keep low and check your 6 at all times. So when times get tough think, what would Chesty do at a time like this. Then kick their ass off this planet. Sorry for the out burst. If I may, Semper Fi and thanks.” GS – Palm Beach, Florida
16.) “Thanks, your comments give a much better picture of Iraq events than the national and local TV news readers. I am not sure that any true news analysts remain on the TV networks.” CDR USN (Ret) JPS
17.) “I received your Crowley’s Chronicles from an old high school friend. I truly enjoyed all of what you had to say. My ex husband is a Marine and served in Vietnam. Two of my sons were also in the Marines. My prayers and thoughts are with you as you continue to write about the truth of this war. I will pray for your safety and your return home soon. May God be with you always.” ST USMC MOM
18.) “I want to thank you for all the editions (1- 6) that I have read. You’re doing a great job letting us all know what the true picture is over there. It makes tears come to your eyes reading what all those young people have to say. We back here, at home are keeping them in our prayers. As you travel around tell them all thanks for all they are doing.”
QUESTION: “I know there are lots of people wanting to know if there is a web site that you keep these editions on or how to get on a distribution list. Many of us are passing your editions around and everyone loves reading them. Thank you and keep up the great work.” DE MSgt USMC(ret)
ANSWER: I do not have a web site although the Crowley’s Chronicles appear on several if you check Google. If people email me I will be happy to forward them: CrowleyTM@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil
19.) “I noticed the articles about you and your parents in the Herald News on August 25th. I put the paper aside until the weekend when I had the opportunity to read all the items. Well, I read the articles three times with tears for many reasons. I could not help but associate you and your family with our situation. Our son, Major David Y., was called to active duty in Iraq last October. He has since been home on 2 weeks R&R in June and is now scheduled to leave Iraq early September to return back to New Hampshire to his wife, daughter and son.
I so well remember the day last August when my husband confronted me in our kitchen and with tears running down his cheeks and informed me what the rest of our family already knew that our son was going to Iraq. I cannot repeat the words I said against President Bush in that panic moment. However, when I gained my composure I knew that it was inevitable. I too forgot 9-11 in that instant. Needless to say, our family went on to support President Bush in the November election. Before leaving for active duty, Dave had the opportunity to attend a Bush rally in New Hampshire. Dave was on stage with his family and was greeted by the President who wished him well. My husband was able to order on the internet a red, white and blue flag about 3' X 6' with a blue star in the center. The star depicted that we have a family member in the military.
When I read your Chronicles I associated it with the many writings Dave sent to us and his friends. Both you and Dave were saying the same story - just the way it is there I was very surprised that the newspaper printed your stories and pictures that tell it as it is. I will pass on your articles to Dave. Keep up the good work, your family must be very proud of you. God's blessings for your safe and speedy return to your family here in Wayne and Clarks Summit, PA. May God be with you.” CY - Wayne, NJ
21.) “I have had the pleasure through some Marine friends to read your journals and I can’t tell you Thank You enough and keep them coming.
I was in Iraq last year from March to the end of October and there are many times I wish I was still there especially when I am reading your words. I felt good everyday with what we were all doing over there. Unfortunately, the AF says I’m done and I will retire with 30 years in February, but it doesn’t hurt to raise my hand and tell them I’d still go back. I’m still trying to find a position as a civilian that I can come back and do some good things in Iraq. I believe fully in what we’re doing over there and I do know from my interactions with the Iraqis that the majority do want us and need us to help them get THEIR country back. Please pass on to all our military and civilians that you talk to over there, that we, the majority, do support them and are so very proud of them.” CMSgt KS
22.) “The responses we received from this mission have reinforced my personal feelings that the majority of the American citizens are 120% behind our troops. We consider it an honor to be able to do this little something to show our pride in the Military and the USMC in particular. Semper Fi !!” Russ Sword
Note – Russ’s company, Ames Sword, made a special Marine Corps sword for a Marine’s funeral; he had employees come in over a weekend in order to manufacture the sword to be presented to the family in time. The company has a waiting list that is several months long. Russ, once again - thank you!
23.) “I wanted to thank you for your service and to let you know how proud that I am of all of our troops. My name is MDC and I live in San Ramon, Ca. I served my Country from 1976 to 1980. After a number of family problems I was a single Father going to school raising a little boy and working at the same time. I met my present wife Mary who enriched our lives greatly. Kyle loved the outdoors - hunting and fishing was our calling. Kyle's Great grandfather was a Marine during War II who served on the USS Iowa and had many stories to tell. My brother served in Germany and my uncle served in Viet Nam as well. Kyle at the age of fifteen wanted to be a Marine and constantly badgered me to let him pre-enter just after 9/11. He wanted to serve his Country. My fears of my little boy going to war were heavy on my heart, but as a father we have to give our children their right to make choices of their own - right or wrong. Kyle was given this right, he volunteered to join the Marine Corps and recruited four our five additional guys to join with him. After Boot Camp Kyle and I were at odds with each other when at eighteen he came home telling me he signed up to be a Rifleman (Grunt). I was upset because he scored high in the intelligence sector but he wanted to fight. He deployed with 2/4 Echo Company out of Camp Pendleton at the age of eighteen. He was given the billet as fire team leader - I have been told that this is normally given to young men four years his senior.
On April 6, 2004 in Ramadi, Al Anbar Province, Iraq while driving an UN-armored HMMV ahead of two other armored HMMVs, that Kyle and his squad had volunteered to lead, they where ambushed. Kyle and eleven other young men died that day including his platoon leader and squad leader. My fears had come true and Kyle’s death has almost killed me, but still I breathe and live. I am very proud of him and Honor him with every breath as well as all who have perished with him and after him, LCPL Kyle D. Crowley will live on in our Hearts and Memories Forever, Gone but never forgotten.Semper Fi, Gold Star Dad” MDC – San Ramon, California
Answer: I am sorry to learn of the death of your son. We have lost so many fine men and women over here. Years down the road we will look back and hopefully realize what a tremendous difference their sacrifices made for the rest of the world, not just Iraq or America. If we can finally put down the terrorists that so ruthlessly attacked our nation on 9/11 and prevent such future attacks, all the sacrifices will truly mean something. It will never make our losses, especially the losses suffered by parents such as you any easier – but you will know that you son’s dedication, pride, and sacrifice saved thousands of innocent lives.
My two sons are still much too young to serve but one day I would be proud of them if they chose to enter the Marine Corps. As a Marine I understand the risks and would fear for their safety as any other parent would, but like you, having served, would understand the call of duty. Whenever a Marine in your unit makes the ultimate sacrifice it is like losing a brother and now with the Marines being half my age it is like losing a son. I will never forget the first time I had a young Marine die in my arms some fifteen years ago, it didn’t matter that we weren’t related – it hit me harder then any family member or friend who has died over the years. There is a true bond that Marines will always hold for one another.
Take heart in your son’s sacrifice that he made the world safer for all of us.
Once again I am sorry for your loss. LtCol Tim Crowley
As usual, I will end the 7th Edition on a high note:
Exciting news – while I’m overseas killing the enemy (well, maybe not) my brother Joe is saving lives in Rhode Island. While enjoying a swim in the ocean, my brother heard a cry for help and noticed a man in real trouble. It was clear he was too far from the nearest boat or shore, didn't have the experience to float or tread water to survive and he wasn’t going to make it. He was exhausted and continued to go under until Joe reached him. Utilizing the life saving skills he had been taught over thirty years ago (I have to note that he is my older brother), Joe told him to relax and he would bring him safely to the breakwater. Battling the current that was too much for the other swimmer, Joe swam quite a long distance through the ocean waves to get him to safety. The young man rested and recovered on the rocks for about an hour and after ensuring he was alright, Joe swam some distance to a boat, towed a raft back to the breakwater and then towed the man back to the boat. Excellent job!!! We might need a Crowley’s Chronicle Rhode Island edition. (Editor’s note: after the man was safely rescued, Joe resumed his activities and successfully dove down and caught a lobster for his wife for dinner!)
LtCol Tim Crowley