8:04 | 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.)
Keywords : Andrew Witzel light armor ambulance driver Operation al-Fajr Fallujah Iraq Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Habbaniyah highway Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV)
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
Andrew Witzel got a lot of bonus money to reenlist. All he asked is to not be sent to Camp Lejeune. After a year, the Iraq veteran was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was stationed at a tiny outpost in the desert.
There was a bazaar in a village that was a Taiban stronghold and the Marines were ordered to shut it down. Andrew Witzel remembers that the operation was going well until a suicide bomber detonated his device. The casualties included Afghan children and a very close friend of his. (Caution: strong language.)
After his Afghanistan deployment, Andrew Witzel made the tough decision to get out of the Marine Corps. Returning to his home and starting post-service jobs helped him deal with his personal problems. Especially helpful were the jobs that dealt with helping fellow veterans. (Caution: strong language.)
Afghanistan veteran Andrew Witzel is not at all happy about the pullout from that country. How in the world would anyone want to be our ally? He feels remorse for the women and girls who are losing their opportunity to thrive in an open society.
It finally caught up with him. Josh Lipe had gritted his teeth and kept going back in the School Of Infantry when he injured his ankle and foot. Now he had a bone spur that required surgery just as his unit prepared to deploy to Iraq. He was going to miss the deployment.
No matter what you think about a conflict, you should support the troops who fight it. That's the message Jason Wilebski wants people to remember. He pays respect to the leaders and grunts he served with and reveals what music they were listening to while breaking up stuff in Iraq.
He was raised by a Marine, so when Josh Lipe went off to boot camp himself, he knew exactly what to expect. He was amused instead of intimidated by the mind games but there was one problem. He injured his ankle and kept on going. That was a mistake.
It was great to have a Spectre gunship overhead. Jason Wilebski really appreciated the cover from the air as he fought on the ground in the Iraqi town of Karmah. His unit was taking sniper fire from a mosque but there was a solution for that. (Caution: strong language)
When the 9/11 attacks occurred, Josh Lipe was at Security Forces school in Chesapeake, VA. The base instantly went on war footing and students were put on guard with live ammo. Rumors were flying as the young Marines waited in suspense to find out if more attacks were coming.
Three times around in Iraq and Jason Wilebski was ready for a calmer experience. His next assignment wasn't that calm, though. It involved a lot of live fire training. He was one of the trainers, known as coyotes.
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.
He walked into the hospital at Al Asad under his own power but Josh Lipe was soon out cold for 36 hours. He'd been badly injured in an IED attack and was in a frenzy when he woke up. Take me back to my men! That was impossible and he was flown back to the US to recover. The transition was not easy. (Caution: strong language)
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.
They train you to get out of an ambush by assaulting through it, if you can. That's exactly what Jason Wilebski and his fellow Marines did in the Iraqi town of Al Kut. It helped once thay figured out you had to milk the grenade before you threw it. Part 2 of 2. (Caution: strong language)
When Josh Lipe came to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, the unit was understaffed. They were going to go to Iraq shorthanded but there was no lack of spirit. While he waited in Kuwait to cross the border, he found out what night vision can do to star gazing. It was spectacular.
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.
After the Blackwater contractors were killed in Fallujah, Josh Lipe's unit was part of the force assembled to clean up the town. He had a premonition about a friend in a different unit that he happened to see and it turned out to be true. When he had fought his way into the city and had a moment's rest, he got hold of a satellite phone and had a dramatic phone call with his mom. (Caution: strong language)
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.
When he found out he was assigned to Twentynine Palms, new Marine Jason Wilebski began to be regaled with horror stories about the place. "It was 130 degrees and they were throwing beer bottles at us," claimed one of his instructors, describing his arrival there.
Josh Lipe had a feeling they were headed into an ambush and he was right. He should have been OK. He was in the second truck and they usually tried to take out the first or the last, but in this IED attack, his truck was hit. The blast knocked him out and when he came to, he began to check on the rest of his guys. Their reactions when they saw him let him know haw badly wounded he was. (Caution: strong language)
He was on patrol and running missions for a month in Fallujah and Josh Lipe was finally getting the benefit of all the training he had gone through. His squad was comprised of Marines that were straight out of central casting, some real characters.
When he pushed into Iraq, Jason Wilebski was part of the Marine infantry attached to a tank unit. At first, he could only hear the sound of the building battle as he rode in a sealed up Amtrac. When he dismounted, he saw a couple of Cobras take out some Iraqi tanks. It was a dazzling display of firepower. (Caution: strong language)
The Marines were living in converted shipping containers and stuck with bad chew and bad Iraqi cigarettes. The desert cammies were filthy so Josh Lipe had his squad change into greens so they could wash them. This led to some incoming from a stiff First Sergeant. (Caution:strong language)
A huge sandstorm kept the Marines buttoned up in their vehicles for hours. After it cleared, they rolled into the town of Al Kut, where the enemy had an ambush set up. SAW gunner Jason Wilebski and Company made them wish they had not done that. Part 1 of 2. (Caution: strong language)
After recovering from his injuries, Josh Lipe was on the field to greet his unit when they returned from Iraq. He became an instructor in several areas, first in the Marine Corps and then in the civilian world. He'd nearly been killed by an IED but he felt sure he was saved so he could teach others.
There was definitely a favorite song in the 3-4 Marines. As they waited to sweep into Fallujah, psy ops cranked up the loudspeakers and it was game on. Twenty years later, Josh Lipe reveals the name of the song and tells what it's like to be together with his guys once again.
For a third time, Jason Wilebski deployed to Iraq, this time as a squad leader. He and his Marines were angry that they had been pulled back the last time they were there because they felt they could have finished the job. One thing that was different this time, there were a lot more IED's. (Caution: strong language)
As part of the Marine Corps Security Forces, Josh Lipe's unit was assigned tasks such as guarding embassies and safeguarding nuclear fuel transfers. When the bombing range in Puerto Rico was reopened following the 9/11 attacks, they had to mix it up with some local protestors.
He grew up working on a dairy farm where there was always work to do but Jason Wilebski was now a Marine. The training made that feel like nothing. The pace was relentless as his unit prepared for the invasion of Iraq. (Caution: strong language)
IED's were a growing problem in Iraq and Josh Lipe was alarmed at the piles of stones that he thought had something to do with the bombs. That turned out not to be the case, which was a big relief. He remembers a huge Iraqi truck stop on the trip north and he can still smell the bad diesel.