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The Army's Most Hated Unit
ABC News via Military.com ^ | July 6, 2004 | ABC News

Posted on 07/06/2004 5:55:51 AM PDT by Key West Girl

The Army's Most Hated Unit
ABCNews.com
July 6, 2004

They've been called the most-hated unit in the Army - the 1st Battalion of the 509th Infantry - known as the Geronimoes.

The Geronimoes are tasked with playing the "enemy" at the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., putting visiting infantry and special operations troops through their paces.

Recently, that has meant playing Iraqi insurgents and terrorists - an enemy whose rocket attacks and suicide bombings are killing U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians almost daily. To play the part, the men of the 509th were allowed to grow full beards and wear Iraqi civvies in place of their uniform.

Lt. Col. Casey Griffith, the commander of the unit, calls the 509th "the best bad guys I know, but also the best good guys I have ever known."

The bad guys now have to switch sides. With the Army pressed to rotate more soldiers into Iraq, they have now turned to the 509th, which hasn't been deployed in 60 years. Two of the battalion's four companies, Alpha and Bravo, have been called up for duty in Iraq.

"I think the Army said, 'Hey that's the 509th - those are Geronimoes. They're a historic unit. They're a well-trained unit, a highly disciplined unit. We need somebody right now and those guys are ready,' " said Griffith.

So the notorious "bad guys" have had to shave their beards, put on an Army uniform, and become regular soldiers again. For the last few weeks, they've trained almost night and day with little sleep - learning to be U.S. soldiers, not foreign terrorists.

Best Trained, But Not in the Best Way

Sgt. Christopher Campbell has been watching Geronimoes fight other Geronimoes and is impressed. "These guys in a month have transformed a lot. It's amazing how they picked up from one side and went to the other."

The Geronimoes are one of the best-trained units in the military, but they were focused primarily on being the best antagonists. That meant working independently with few restrictions. Now they must learn to act as a centralized unit dependent on one another for survival.

In their training to go to Iraq, they practice everything from interacting with local leaders to dealing with civilian complaints to planning covert missions to weed out insurgents.

Sgt. Jason Buda says it's different being on the other side.

"Because you have certain rules to follow. You have to basically interact with the people to try to do your combat mission as well as a humanitarian mission. The enemy doesn't have rules to follow."

Pvt. James Jennings used to launch rockets at the visiting soldiers. Now as he heads to Iraq, he believes he's more prepared than most. "We're a lot more aggressive. We used to go in chasing after people, getting it done real quick, so we move a lot quicker normally than we would before."

Advice from the Experienced

The fighting on the real streets of Iraq often has turned deadly. Since the invasion, more than 800 troops have died. The Army has tried to learn from real combat so they can better prepare soldiers for the dangers they face.

They bring in soldiers who just got back from Iraq to share those lessons learned. "Maybe if our words can help them stay alive over there, that's all we're aiming to do," says Sgt. Michael Ketchen.

He says the biggest problem was not understanding the language and cultural differences in Iraq. "Just like how to tell a person to stop over there. It's little things like that that are going to help you get by day to day."

The Army's trainers incorporate those lessons. They know good interaction with civilians is key to a successful operation. So in a simulated invasion of an Iraqi town to look for Iraqi insurgents, the American soldiers play a script on loudspeakers that says: "We are here in town to make it a safer place. We are here for your security. We need you to obey our orders."

After the exercise, they get a review of how they did. The new commander of Bravo company, Capt. Roy Tisdale, wants more from his soldiers. He says they've become so good at playing the enemy that they must now learn that not everyone is their adversary. "Now we're dealing with it and learning to deal with people who are not necessarily the bad guy - that are just upset or have an issue, you know, what is a real threat and what is a non-lethal threat, and handling each."

Emotional Occasions

The soldiers will be gone at least a year and no one feels that harder than their families. Tisdale's wife Kim is the volunteer leader of the family readiness group. She remembers getting the bad news in a double surprise: "He came home and he said two companies had been alerted, Alpha and Bravo. And I said, Well, good, you're not going to go. And he said, Well, Bravo company commander broke his leg that same day, so he's going to take over Bravo and go. So it was a big shock."

None of the families have had much time to prepare - the orders came so fast. The surprise deployment has meant an early marriage for Erin and Issac Barnhart who were high school sweethearts. Erin says: "It makes me real emotional to think about the possibility of him dying, and the intense stuff that they do every single day. They're out there in direct contact, and it's really hard to understand the fact that he could be gone. I mean, I've only had a very short amount of time to be with him. But I'm very proud."

Adding to a Storied Past

The deployment of the 509th begins a new chapter in the battalion's long storied history. The unit played a prominent role in some of World War II's key campaigns. On Nov. 8, 1942, the 509th spearheaded the Allied invasion of North Africa, jumping into Algeria after a 1,600-mile flight from England.

One of the veteran 509ers, John Devanie, went back to Fort Polk to see the deployment of the two units. He gathered the men around them and told them, "I feel like I'm seven feet tall being in front of you. Because I was the same age about 61 years ago. And I'm real thrilled to be here."

Two of the four companies will be left behind to continue training other soldiers. National Guardsmen will be sent to Fort Polk to fill in for the deployed soldiers. Splitting up the unit is difficult. Commander Griffith says: "None of them are my sons, none of them are my brothers, but they're my soldiers and there's a bond there that's tighter than anything I can imagine."

Griffith says his men are ready and believes their experience playing the bad guys for so long will serve them well now that they're the good guys.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: Louisiana; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: army; deployment; fortpolk; geronimoes; oif; soldiers; war

1 posted on 07/06/2004 5:55:52 AM PDT by Key West Girl
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To: Key West Girl

The best way to beat a junk yard dog is with a bigger junk y ard dog.


2 posted on 07/06/2004 5:58:32 AM PDT by TXBSAFH (Power corrupts..... Absolute power can be fun.)
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To: Key West Girl; Old Sarge; kjfine

REad this ping!


3 posted on 07/06/2004 5:59:11 AM PDT by StarCMC (Please pray for the 2/7 Marines and Josh.)
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To: Cannoneer No. 4

ping


4 posted on 07/06/2004 5:59:18 AM PDT by Jonah Hex (Only 5 cents a troll? Must be too many of the varmints around here...)
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To: Key West Girl
Awesome way to train,,,why don't the marines train like that? Even the air force, navy has top gun schools with skilled warriors in the role of the enemy..
5 posted on 07/06/2004 6:03:30 AM PDT by aspiring.hillbilly
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To: aspiring.hillbilly

The OpFor at the National Training Center (Fort Irwin) gets more press, but what goes on at JRTC has more relevence to our current problems.

But as for the Marines, it's call the _Joint_ Readiness Training Center for a reason.


6 posted on 07/06/2004 6:20:53 AM PDT by jdege
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To: Key West Girl; VaBthang4; 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub; Blueflag; Travis McGee; aristeides; ...

I hope someone else notices that this is robbing the training component of an extremely valuable asset and putting them out of commission for 2 years.

Clinton broke the army when he cut it to 10 divisions. There's no way that a 10 division army can fight 2 simultaneous wars.

If they are robbing entire training units, and especially at the major training centers of JRTC & NTC, then they are admitting that the army is big time broke.

I say that from years of military experience. Someone feel free to disagree with me.


7 posted on 07/06/2004 6:39:26 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: Key West Girl

My son trained at JRTC, Ft. Polk and has many stories to tell about the 509th (although they were the "enemy").


8 posted on 07/06/2004 6:42:11 AM PDT by GVnana
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To: Key West Girl

I have a Ranger friend who teaches Airborne school there. He used to be one of the Red Team guys. He loves working at JRTC. From the sound of it, I can't blame him.


9 posted on 07/06/2004 7:33:25 AM PDT by adam_az (Call your State Republican Party office and VOLUNTEER!!!!)
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To: Key West Girl

God Speed The Geronimoes...


10 posted on 07/06/2004 7:39:31 AM PDT by Geronimo
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To: Key West Girl

.


NEVER FORGET


American Soldiers fighting for...
The Freedom of Others,
Those that train them and...
Those who wait for them...
To come home...
or not...
are...


............HOLY..!!!



Signed:.."ALOHA RONNIE" Guyer / Veteran-"WE WERE SOLDIERS" Batttle of IA DRANG-1965

(Photos)
http://www.lzxray.com/guyer_set1.htm
http://www.lzxray.com/guyer_set2.htm
http://www.lzxray.com/guyer_set3.htm
http://www.lzxray.com/guyer_collection.htm


NEVER FORGET

.


11 posted on 07/06/2004 7:44:01 AM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 http://www.LZXRAY.com)
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To: adam_az

Airborne school at Polk?


12 posted on 07/06/2004 8:38:13 AM PDT by Rocky Mountain High
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To: Key West Girl
The Army's Most Hated Unit

What part of the Army does ABC not hate?

13 posted on 07/06/2004 8:45:11 AM PDT by sr4402
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To: Key West Girl

I was in the "nickel O nasty" in Mainz Gonzenhiem germany in 1971 & 72. They had been there since the end of ww2.

Thats how I got my name kennyboy 509


14 posted on 07/06/2004 8:46:55 AM PDT by kennyboy509 (Ha! I kill me!)
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To: xzins
On the other hand, it could be argued that this is an excellent training opportunity for the Geronimos, and one that previously was unavailable due to the lack of a suitable theater of operations.

Just a thought.

15 posted on 07/06/2004 8:49:11 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: xzins

Nah...it's alright.

Truth be told if we're deploying these guys odds are we dont need to be sending a bunch of units to JRTC because they're getting real World training in Iraq.

JRTC's schedule is open so why not send [2 out of 4 battalions] them in and see what they're able to accomplish....I am sure critical eyes will be watching to see how it plays out. Plus JRTC will probably be picking up a few new tricks to bring back home.


16 posted on 07/06/2004 8:58:19 AM PDT by VaBthang4 (He Who Watches Over Israel Will Neither Slumber Nor Sleep)
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To: 1rudeboy; VaBthang4

I asked for alternative opinions and you two provided them.

I'll consider your comments.

Is there any benefit in an army having its cooks be military instead of hired civilians.....even on the battlefield?


17 posted on 07/06/2004 9:01:08 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins
Is there any benefit in an army having its cooks be military instead of hired civilians.....even on the battlefield?

I don't know about the cost/benefit analysis angle, but I'll side with Army cooks any day of the week.

I spent 8 years in the AF and at every base I went to, they had contract kitchen help in the chow halls. The food was mediocre at best. I worked as a civililian for the Army in Germany for a few years after that and the food at the Army chow halls was always first class. The Army kitchen people were proud of their work and always very friendly.

I'd say morale trumps cost/benefit analyses every time.

18 posted on 07/06/2004 9:54:52 AM PDT by Looking4Truth (NEVER trust Muslims to keep their word.)
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To: Key West Girl
Hey these guys are so tough i was reading an article about them.I got so scared i left town.Good Bless them ten folds and god please watch over our troops.
19 posted on 07/06/2004 10:15:11 AM PDT by solo gringo (Say No More Bush and Cheney in 04)
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To: aspiring.hillbilly

I agree, its a wonderful way to train and those guys are really tough.


20 posted on 07/06/2004 3:16:53 PM PDT by Key West Girl
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To: ALOHA RONNIE

Thank you for your service Ronnie.


21 posted on 07/06/2004 3:17:29 PM PDT by Key West Girl
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To: kennyboy509

I guess I'm going to do some research on the nickel O nasty boys. You got my curiousity up.


22 posted on 07/06/2004 3:18:56 PM PDT by Key West Girl
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To: Key West Girl

Anyone know how many US serviceman have been injured since the handover June 28th?


23 posted on 07/06/2004 3:22:12 PM PDT by Dead Dog (Expose the Media to Light, Expose the Media to Market Forces.)
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To: Key West Girl

Until my Son-in-Law was deployed, as a member of the Old Guard (Ft. Myer) he was often involved with war games where he participated as "the enemy". They'd generally send him to Ft. Polk or to AP Hill.


24 posted on 07/06/2004 3:25:59 PM PDT by COBOL2Java (If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading this in English, thank a soldier.)
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To: Key West Girl

.


.."WE WERE SOLDIERS"..MOORE & GALLOWAY / JW Radio Guests

http://www.Freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1164717/posts


.


25 posted on 07/06/2004 3:36:18 PM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 http://www.LZXRAY.com)
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To: Looking4Truth

I was in the AF too. Being a microwave radio tech, I was always on mountain tops, the small AF stations are a little different than most chowhalls. They only have cooks make one meal a day. The rest of the time, you just sign your name, go into the kitchen and make whatever you want to. If I recall, they usually locked up the steaks though. LOL


26 posted on 07/06/2004 3:37:53 PM PDT by NeonKnight
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To: xzins; StarCMC; kjfine; txradioguy; mike1sg; Arrowhead1952; HiJinx; 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub; ...
Padre, I'm going to play, "Stop the Tape!" for a second, here...

I hope someone else notices that this is robbing the training component of an extremely valuable asset and putting them out of commission for 2 years.

Two companies rotating into The Box is a good thing - the Geronimoes will pick up a few real-time things to augment their role-play at JRTC, and with two National Guard companies rotating in to take their place, the guard comes out of it with two school-trainers, that they go back to THEIR training sites and spread the gospel.

Clinton broke the army when he cut it to 10 divisions. There's no way that a 10 division army can fight 2 simultaneous wars.

Oh, there's no arguement with that first part from me! But two "major conflicts" isn't quite the rule anymore; it's more like one major plus two minors. Now with OIF handed over, Big Army has almost rotated all their formations out, and the Guard/Reserve formations have the ball. The Bosnia and MFO missions are also almost all Guard, too. So, some of the pressure is off Big Army, for now.

If they are robbing entire training units, and especially at the major training centers of JRTC & NTC, then they are admitting that the army is big time broke.

Sorry, Sir, but that's not quite in the ten-ring. 11 ACR at Irwin hasn't been touched, and only two companies of 1/509 are in rotation; and they're getting Guardsmen as backfill. And that's only the Big Army schools; the various Reserve training centers are still hopping - like at Fort McCoy, where I'm writing from tonight; a Mobilization base that preps the kids for the trip. Plus we've got the train-ups once boots hit the dirt in theater.

Please belive me, there's no slack in the training of the gangs going out. What you see as a broke battalion, I see as two companies of big Army troops with sharper skills, and two more companies of Guardsmen who will know better how to work the kids over back home. Winners all around!

27 posted on 07/06/2004 5:55:10 PM PDT by Old Sarge (2004: Win One More For The Gipper!)
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To: kennyboy509
Our son is carrying on your tradition with the 509th right now. Current updates on the deployment are officially here. Unofficially, you are welcome to follow along here.
28 posted on 07/06/2004 6:23:00 PM PDT by Nora
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To: Old Sarge

The 11th ACR at NTC will shortly be touched. A little bird told me. (Solid info.)

Sarge, no one is saying that the army cannot do it, nor that everyone concerned won't learn a lot....they will.

What I'm saying is that they're deploying units from the training base. I've been around the army since 1970, and it hasn't happened in all that period.

It's a testimony to the army being TOO small. (2 regional wars at the same time has long been the standard, although I agree that there was some discussion about one major and a few skirmishes.)


29 posted on 07/06/2004 6:24:24 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins

Hm. If that's the case, then it's the first deployment for the Blackhorse in a long time.

I rode with them last June, on a rotation against a Guard unit that's already in The Box. They did fine.

The two-region war is a throwback from our time: two-front war against the Great Red Hordes. We did the same thing, when I wore a younger man's uniform in the early 80's. But we're finding the multi-conflict works real well. And with the new Brigade Combat Team structure, it means less tail, more teeth.


30 posted on 07/06/2004 8:18:26 PM PDT by Old Sarge (2004: Win One More For The Gipper!)
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To: Key West Girl
509th Ping. Boy our kiddo in Germany was mighty unhappy that he isn't with his old unit. He still has a lot of friends in Bravo Co. and still working as OPFOR. I have believed that his work with this unit was the primary reason that we never heard him complain about eating MRE's or sleeping out in the field during the first months of the Iraq war. These guys are accustomed to living like that.
31 posted on 07/06/2004 8:25:41 PM PDT by armymarinemom (Ultimate Flip Flop->I support the Troops but not their mission)
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To: xzins

Believe me I noticed. We were always told that if they deplopyed this unit things were getting mighty tight for deployable troops.


32 posted on 07/06/2004 8:27:57 PM PDT by armymarinemom (Ultimate Flip Flop->I support the Troops but not their mission)
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To: Old Sarge
More tooth to tail has always been the marines' motto, but they've done so realizing that the army would pick up their combat service support slack.

Sec. Rumsfeld intends to do so by civilianizing a number of positions.....I guess from cooks to transporters.

This leads to the obvious question: what are the advantages of having the cooks be military members rather than civilians?

33 posted on 07/06/2004 8:33:29 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins

Easy: civilians might not always be found who want to go to a combat zone.

Tax dollars get saved, too, I imagine...


34 posted on 07/06/2004 8:48:39 PM PDT by Old Sarge (2004: Win One More For The Gipper!)
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To: armymarinemom

I've eaten an MRE, and I choked it down to the amusement of my brother. He reminds about it all the time to keep those those care packages coming. I'd really like to buy one or two and put them in the next package - I think that would get a laugh or two from the boys!


35 posted on 07/07/2004 5:08:20 AM PDT by Key West Girl
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To: Old Sarge

They pay the civilians enormous upfront money to go to a combat zone. But, I don't see what they can do if the civilian decides it's too hot and just hops a plane back home. They don't have the problem of benefits, training, retirement, in the out years.

It still seems to me, though, that if we have 10 soldiers we have to pay and one of them is a cook, then we have 9 fighers. If we replace the cook with a fighter we have 10 fighers....all of whom we still have to pay.

When we hire a cook, it would seem that the defense budget would go up, not down. Same number of soldiers PLUS civilian help.

It's the old "which pot of money" game.


36 posted on 07/07/2004 6:05:24 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: VaBthang4

Actually, they sent two out of THREE. There is only A, B and D. It really crippled the JRTC and there were MANY rotations that went through while the G-men were gone. A national guard unit came in to replace them, and the training was nothing of the caliber of the real thing. The schedule was not open as you suggested. It did give them some real world experience that will be valuable to the group, but being so unexpected it left a tremendous burden on their families. They only had a few weeks notice!


37 posted on 05/23/2005 9:17:38 AM PDT by geronimowife
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To: aspiring.hillbilly

"Awesome way to train,,,why don't the marines train like that? Even the air force, navy has top gun schools with skilled warriors in the role of the enemy.."

When my son was in Ramadi, the Army was responsible for conveying out hot meals to the Marines. Some days, the convoy would arrive, some days not, depending on how dangerous the Army assessed the situation to be.

Maybe the Marines have a better way of training so they can get the job done.

(I have not served. My byline honors my son and all U.S. Marines.)


38 posted on 05/23/2005 9:23:13 AM PDT by righttackle44 (The most dangerous weapon in the world is a Marine with his rifle and the American people behind him)
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To: righttackle44
the history of the marines for hundreds of years is one of having the ARMY bail them out of situations where they need rescuing... not the other way around..LOL
39 posted on 05/23/2005 1:18:42 PM PDT by aspiring.hillbilly
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To: aspiring.hillbilly

"the history of the marines for hundreds of years is one of having the ARMY bail them out of situations where they need rescuing... not the other way around..LOL:"

Actually, the history of the Marines is going in first. Also LOL.


40 posted on 05/23/2005 1:57:46 PM PDT by righttackle44 (The most dangerous weapon in the world is a Marine with his rifle and the American people behind him)
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To: Key West Girl

Godspeed to my grandfather's (Jeremiah Michael Powers) old outfit!


41 posted on 05/23/2005 2:05:05 PM PDT by Theophilus (Save Little Democrats, Stop Abortion)
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To: righttackle44

True but they need to be finishing what they started by themselves.. The ARMY has to.


42 posted on 05/24/2005 7:37:06 AM PDT by aspiring.hillbilly
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To: Key West Girl

bttt


43 posted on 05/24/2005 7:42:12 AM PDT by shield (The Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God!!!! by Dr. H. Ross, Astrophysicist)
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To: aspiring.hillbilly

"True but they need to be finishing what they started by themselves.. The ARMY has to."

Belleau wood, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, the Marianas, the Carolines, et al. The Marines went in first. THEN the Army came in. But the Marines need them there so they could go on into the fighting and let the Army camp out.


44 posted on 05/24/2005 7:52:53 AM PDT by righttackle44 (The most dangerous weapon in the world is a Marine with his rifle and the American people behind him)
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To: righttackle44
What a slanted jarheaded revision of history... LOL
45 posted on 05/24/2005 2:40:26 PM PDT by aspiring.hillbilly
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To: aspiring.hillbilly

But prove me wrong.

(I hope you're not getting upset. I'm
enjoying this.)


46 posted on 05/24/2005 2:59:37 PM PDT by righttackle44 (The most dangerous weapon in the world is a Marine with his rifle and the American people behind him)
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To: righttackle44

Army's 498th Med Racks Up Rescues
Supporting Marine Push in Iraq War
498
Medevac BLACK HAWKs of the 498th on the busy flight line.

The U.S. Army's 498th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) reported carrying more than 700 patients during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The unit flew UH-60A BLACK HAWK helicopters during combat operations in a desert environment from Ali Al Salem, Kuwait to Baghdad, Iraq.

"The aircraft performed excellently under the most demanding of circumstances, never letting the crew or the patient down," read a message to the Sikorsky Winged-S Rescue Award program. "The hours flown on each airframe is a testimony to the quality product Sikorsky produces."

"The fact the 498th Medical Company flew a total of 1,550.5 hours in support of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force while evacuating "735 Marines," U.S. Army Soldiers, Iraqi civilians, Iraqi EPW's (enemy prisoners of war), and Kuwaiti Civilians from 22 Feb 03 to 10 May 03 is a testimony to their sustained courage during combat operations," the message concluded.

About 150 soldiers from the 498th received heroes' welcomes from friends and family members when they returned to Lawson Army Airfield at Fort Benning, Ga., after spending nearly four months in Iraq, according to the base newspaper.

"These soldiers did a fantastic job," Maj. Greg Gentry, company commander, told the Fort Benning Bayonet. "This is the first time the Army has provided this type of support for a Marine unit, so they were paving the way, both doctrine and mission wise."

"When we received notice, we were given two objectives," Gentry said. "Accomplish the mission and bring everyone back.

"I'm sure every one of these soldiers feels fortunate that we were able to accomplish the mission and remain relatively unscathed," he said.


47 posted on 05/25/2005 8:24:28 AM PDT by aspiring.hillbilly (ripped from the headlines)
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To: aspiring.hillbilly

And we thank God for these guys.

Doesn't answer my challenge.


48 posted on 05/25/2005 8:29:54 AM PDT by righttackle44 (The most dangerous weapon in the world is a Marine with his rifle and the American people behind him)
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