6:55 | Marine Reservist Bart Cole was called up and deployed to Iraq. After an uncomfortable stay in the deep desert, his unit was tasked with security around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. He found out why Marines were sent there, because they weren't Army. The Army ran the prison and was dealing with the abuse scandal, which caused a torrent of outrage.
Keywords : Bart Cole Iraq desert Abu Ghraib prison John Hodgin Scott Thomas Tony Maslin Rob Morris cigarettes Baghdad Paul Bremer Coalition Provisional Authority Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) Newsweek
Bart Cole felt he was lucky to be doing his Marine basic training on the West Coast. He thought it compared favorably to wrestling, football and farm work and it didn't faze him a bit. He was impressed by the kind words for his family from the DI and that became a foundation for him. (Caution: coarse language.)
His first deployments took him to Egypt and up and down the US west coast. Then Marine Bart Cole undertook some training in special ops and at the thoroughly enjoyable Coronado boat school.
When he shipped out in 2001 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Bart Cole got to visit some interesting places. Thailand was the hands down favorite. Back in Hawaii, a special cruise with family members was loaded up and got under way and it was during this excursion that Sep.11 dawned at sea.
He was at sea when the 9/11 attacks occurred, then he was locked down at Camp Pendleton. Finally, Marine Bart Cole was given leave at home. Everybody knew there would be some action soon, and a deployment to Afghanistan was scheduled and then cancelled. Disenchanted, he left the Corps and went to college, but he felt left out.
He'd been in the Corps for quite a while, but Bart Cole had not yet seen any combat. That all changed on a highway in Iraq as he and eight fellow Marines were returning from a supply run. They drove up on a MP Humvee which was under an all-out assault by insurgents. He jumped from his vehicle and joined the fray. Part 1 of 3.
Bart Cole had stumbled upon some American soldiers in the process of being ambushed by Iraqi insurgents. He jumped up on their 50 cal and began firing at two Iraqi positions. He and his fellow Marines broke up the attack, which was short but intense, especially because it was his first firefight. Part 2 of 3.
A Major showed up after the firefight, surveyed the carnage and said to Bart Cole, "There were only eight of you?" He and his fellow Marines had just saved a group of Army MP's from being wiped out by insurgents. It had been his first taste of combat and it took a while for his mind to settle down. Part 3 of 3. (Caution: coarse language.)
The Marines were a security force for the exterior around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. Bart Cole was a squad leader who was experiencing the hate and discontent the abuse scandal had sparked in the populace. After a rocket and mortar attack killed some of the Iraqi prisoners, he was given a particularly morbid task.
Bart Cole had a Humvee blown out from under him. The squad leader wasn't seriously injured, but one of his Marines took a round and was evacuated. He wrote the man's family to offer support, something he learned from one of his mentoring sergeants.
Bart Cole's squad inherited some nice up-armored Humvees from the 82nd Airborne. He stenciled "US Marines" on them to distinguish his unit from Army units. They had some extra guns, but no mounts for them. Time for a little midnight requisition.
The insurgents used several vehicles as they were attacking the perimeter of the Abu Ghraib complex. The last was driven by a suicide bomber, but he was blown up before he could get anywhere. Bart Cole had to go collect what was left of the driver. A young Marine said he wanted to look inside the body bag. No, kid, you don't.
The bond is tight with the men in your unit and Bart Cole names and salutes several of his comrades. He recalls a mission which had them take up a position near a mosque. Suddenly, he heard movement in the dark.
What just happened to us? Bart Cole, along with many others, asked himself that question when he returned from Iraq. It was difficult to just absorb back into society. He stayed in the Marine Reserve and, eventually, his service was again needed overseas.
Squad leader Bart Cole had been there before, but many of the Marines with him in Iraq were on their first deployment. They were in Fallujah, which was supposed to be quiet, but wasn't. Vehicles were getting blown up at the rate of one a week, so they switched to foot patrols.
He figured he would die. He was a target everywhere he went and the MRE's were spoiled. Bart Cole made it out of Fallujah but not all the men in his squad did. He recalls a fellow Marine who reminded him of a character from Lord of the Rings.
Everybody loves Doc. The Corpsmen were universally popular and respected and Bart Cole had a couple of good ones in Iraq. He also grew to respect the rural Iraqis, who were only trying to scratch out a living like he had done, growing up on a farm.
Bart Cole was in the fourth grade when he wrote to the Marines and asked to join. He was a little premature, but during his senior year, he enlisted after a disappointing spring break.
At first, the wounds were simple. A lot of frag wounds and Corpsman Joseph Poquiz was thankful. One day when he was on radio watch inside an abandoned house, an insurgent threw a hand grenade into the room. There were two Marines in there with him. He was the lucky one. He only had a concussion.
Interpreter Ali Alzubaidi was amazed at how warmly he was welcomed into his first American unit. Some of his family had just passed away but now he had a family of 150. He began to feel unsafe when he wasn't with them, however, especially after he got a threatening phone message.
When the vehicle hit an IED, Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz was in the doorway and took most of the blast. All he could think of as he looked down at his shattered body was how long it would take before he could get back to his buddies, but he was beginning a long road to recovery. (Caution: strong language.) Part 1 of 2.
The Iraqi insurgents would often set a new device in an existing crater on the road and pave it over to look like a road repair. Dale Beatty was in a Humvee escorting a fuel convoy and he was aware of this tactic. When he spotted one of these patches in the road, he instructed the driver to go around, but this turned out to be the wrong move.
The rumor was that Andrew Witzel's company had been disbanded because the Marines in it were degenerates, but then there are a lot of rumors among PFC's. At any rate it was reconstituted in the run up to his battalion's deployment to Iraq. They stopped briefly in Kuwait, which he remembers as the hottest place on Earth.
He was only in middle school at the time, but the 9/11 attacks sparked an anger in Colin Walsh that never really went away. When he got to college, he was in Air Force ROTC but he felt like he wasn't contributing. The officer path wasn't for him. (Caution: strong language.)
Joining the Marines was his way out of the small Arizona town where he grew up. Andrew Witzel had a single father and three brothers so the Marine Corps may have been a little quieter. He was still in high school when the 9/11 attacks hardened his desire to become a Marine.
Ali Alzubaidi knew that the Iraqi Army had terrible morale and would collapse quickly when the Americans invaded. He was disgusted when he saw his fellow countrymen looting everything in sight. He pleaded with a US Marine to stop them, but the Marine could not.
When he finally joined his intelligence unit in Iraq, the teams had been reworked and sent to the units they were supporting. Kyle Wise was then sent to a brand new team where, although he was only the assistant NCOIC, he was clearly the most experienced agent.
The men of C Company got a belated Marine Cops birthday celebration while refitting at Camp Ramadi. Even then, it was kind of an insult considering what happened with the awards handed out that day. Their new mission was overwatch on one of the big Iraqi highways, where there was a blind spot between two outposts. That was trouble. (Caution: strong language.)
While he was training up for his second big deployment, Kyle Wise began having some trouble on the gun range with blurred vision. This was just the beginning of some strange health problems that would cause his unit to leave without him.
During the Battle of Fallujah, Andrew Witzel's unit was tasked with securing the two bridges where a mob had lynched American contractors. Then, they set up a blocking position on the Fallujah peninsula. His light armored vehicle had already taken an IED blast before they got there and, before they would leave, it would take an even bigger one that nearly knocked it out of the war. (Caution: strong language.)
It was on a modest black and white television that Ali Alzubaidi saw footage of the 9/11 attacks. What did it mean? Who was behind it? As American forces began to deploy around the world, including the Persian Gulf, he began to be optimistic that Saddam Hussein's time would come to an end.
His first night at FOB Warhorse, counterintelligence agent Kyle Wise was looking for where he was supposed to bunk. He had his laptop bag and his M-16 slung over his shoulder and was walking along, minding his own business, when he heard the challenge word. What? Why here in the middle of the base? Then he heard a .50 cal charged.
Ali Alzubaidi was a pre-teen when Operation Desert Storm began and the sky was filled with American weaponry. People were terrified until they realized the accuracy of the weapons systems was sparing them. Afterward, the economy got very bad and, as he began college, it was hard times.
After his Iraq deployment, Andrew Witzel did what Marines like to do. He had a few drinks. Then he had a few more. Eventually, this would lead to him not drinking any more. At the time, though, he was lucky to get an assignment to Okinawa and then with a Marine Expeditionary Unit that would see him on a year long voyage around the Pacific. (Caution: strong language.)
Ali Alzubaidi grew up near Sadr City in Iraq. He heard stories about the war with Iran initiated by Saddam Hussein, who was insulated from the populace with multiple layers of security. During that war, people were still doing fine economically, so there was not yet resistance to the brutality of Saddam.
The training was accelerated. The counterintelligence school was getting National Guard elements ready for whatever would come after the 9/11 attacks. Kyle Wise was getting good at the trade craft, thanks to instruction from a legendary figure in the intelligence community.
As soon as American forces entered Iraq, Ali Alzubaidi wanted to work with them. He had long dreamed of a free Iraq and he had studied English, so he set out to become an interpreter. The troops loved him because they had no connection to and little understanding of Iraqi culture. It was difficult for many Iraqis to accept them because of American policy toward Israel.
It was during a firefight in Afghanistan that his head had a chance meeting with the grill of his truck. Kyle Wise was knocked out for a minute but he gathered himself and returned to the business at hand. When he was being retired, he found out that the injury was Purple Heart eligible.
His first tour of Iraq was during summer and it was blazing hot. Second time around for Adam Walton, it was winter and it was freezing, but that was OK. He was a Michigander. His Navy Riverine unit was a tight knit bunch and they remain so to this day.
It was miserable in the desert in Kuwait. Chris Tucker gave an earful to a visiting general when he innocently asked, "How's it going?" His superiors got nervous, but he actually had a good conversation with the officer, who answered his probing questions.
His family fled the persecution of the Hmong after the fall of South Vietnam and wound up in California. Charlie Moua has a hard time believing how the youth of today could mouth support for communism as a system of government.
Larry Draughn loved being a Marine and he looked forward to deploying to Iraq. He did have one problem, though. His upcoming marriage was going to cause him some trouble with the Corps. His advice? Get it in writing or, better yet, get married before you join.