"It travels above insurgent positions and sends real-time video images to Marines on the ground. The unmanned device can relay facial expressions on enemy soldiers, and can transmit in such detail that it shows steam rising from their coffee.
The 4-foot-long aircraft has a 10-foot wingspan and can fly up to 15 hours at a time on less than two gallons of fuel, Boeing officials said.
Unmanned aircraft such as ScanEagle are expected to play an increasing role in future battles because the Pentagon (news - web sites) sees the planes as an integral part of combat missions. Weapon systems are in the works that will share a common operating language so soldiers, ships, submarines, planes and satellites can share information in a battlefield network. "
Yahoo! News - Marines Aided by Robotic Airplane in Iraq
Monday, November 29, 2004
"Yesterday, one platoon of the Light Armored Reconnaissance company discovered a control center that could explode at least eight improvised explosive devices, the kind of roadside bombs that have inflicted large numbers of deaths across Iraq. The control center was set inside a normal building, with a wide horizon view of the main highway that cuts through the city. Each IED was labeled, and the operator had only to touch the copper wire for the battery to set off the explosive."
On Saturday the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines engaged in a serious battle in the south of Fallujah that killed two Marines and wounded several others. As the fight continued, Marines estimated that they had killed 34 insurgents and captured another 23, at least 10 of whom were foreign fighters.
Also Saturday, Bravo company of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, found two vast weapons caches in the northeast of the city, which is considered to be the most "cleaned" so far, and therefore the most likely to see the earliest return of civilians.
"We've been through half the doors. It's a necessary but laborious process going on," says Col. Craig Tucker, commander of the Regimental Combat Team-7, one of two regiments active in Fallujah. "We'll go through every house in this city. We'll bring back people by sectors, but we don't want to bring people back while we are still finding 100 105 mm (artillery) rounds in a single house."
Honolulu Star-Bulletin Hawaii News
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Point man Lance Cpl. Richard Caseras entered with his team and ran into the spray of an insurgent's AK-47 assault rifle. A second fighter then emerged, a pineapple grenade in each hand, with pins already pulled.
Eyeball to eyeball with their opponents, the Marines shot them both dead; the grenades fell to the ground and exploded, blasting the Americans with shrapnel.
In the eerie light of the roaring flames, the wounded men were dragged back out to the street while Marines targeted the house with steady gunfire.
As the shooting lit the battle space with muzzle flashes and noise, a lone U.S. Navy medical corpsman jumped out to gather the wounded. This correspondent moved to help, joining in to pull the three injured men into the vehicle by their flak jackets.
"I'm so sorry! I should have used the frag(mentation) grenade and not my M-16 (rifle)," Caseras yelled to his fallen comrades as the vehicle raced toward a combat hospital at Camp Fallujah. Lance Cpl. Nathan Douglass was peppered with shrapnel. Also prone in the back of the armored vehicle, on crates full of ammunition and explosives, lay Cpl. Catcher Cuts the Rope (his American Indian name), with a tourniquet above his knee; grenade shards hit his shoulder and hands.
"Don't worry," Douglass, from Hillsboro, Ore., said consolingly. "We shot so much into that house. There shouldn't have been anybody left."
The final blow came with heavy fire from an AC-130 Spectre gunship, which destroyed four houses used by the insurgents with 40 Howitzer shells.
The toll from a brutal night: one dead Marine and nine wounded, including this correspondent, who was struck in the arm by a small piece of shrapnel.
The firefight brings the casualty rate in the Light Armored Reconnaissance Company to one man in five -- far less than the 60 percent reached during the battle for Vietnam's Hue City in 1968, the last urban assault waged by U.S. Marines before Fallujah, but far higher than most modern combat operations.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin Hawaii News
Saturday, November 27, 2004
"And, then I got hit in my back where it went in and got into my intestine and they had to remove part of my intestines," explained Lance Corporal Moran. Wounded in both legs and with shrapnel in his guts, his colleagues couldn't lower him in a stretcher off the building. So, under continuing mortar fire, Moran had to first climb down from the building they were on.
On the way to an aid station, his vehicle hit two different roadside bombs, knocking out first one, and then the second driver and mildly wounding the medic. Then the ambulance humvee that was sent to rescue them hit another bomb.
The fact that Moran was here to talk about it at all on Thanksgiving was a little miracle.
"I'm thankful to be here with my family, thankful that I came out of it alright," he said.
komo news | Marine Injured In Iraq Home For Thanksgiving
They went in expecting the worst: the mission objective, in military parlance, was "movement to contact," or attacking and capturing insurgents who fired at them as they advanced.
But to everyone's surprise, not a shot was fired, save for a few standard warning shots. Nor were any shots fired during an American raid early Thursday morning, also near Old Mosul, where the military scooped up two men suspected of complicity in attacks on Iraqis who work at a nearby military base.
"I'm kind of disappointed in the enemy," said Capt. Bill Jacobsen, the commander of a 174-man Army company that led the afternoon raid into Old Mosul. "We were there for three hours. Someone all the way to Baghdad could have responded."
The New York Times > International > Middle East > Insurgency: Troops Finding Scores of Bodies of Slain Iraqis
Anyone back home who thinks the world is a safe place needs to come here for a day and learn real fast that there are an awful lot of people out there who hate Americans so much that they risk their lives to try to kill us. We cannot live peacefully back at home right now unless we continue to stay on the offensive against our enemies and fight them in their backyards. Remember, radical Arabs started this war...and they continue to fight it, proving to America over and over that they need to be fought.
one fighter came running out of a building that our tanks set on fire...he was on fire and still shooting at us. As our Sergeant Major said, "going up against tanks and brads with an AK-47, you have to admire their effort!"
2Slick's Forum: Letter from Fallujah
Friday, November 26, 2004
"We'll win the battle, no problem," Juarez continued, "but this is still a war about human relations. This is political war. Everything we do must help toward winning that war."
Honolulu Star-Bulletin Hawaii News
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
"Small things, dude for when you get here: wear the ballistic goggles,
drink water all damn day (the camelbacks are great), I'm drinking probably 5
gallons of water per day, and it ain't enough. Helmet and Flak Jacket
worn at all times when you are outside, it sucks, but it saves lives. Wear
both the throat protector and the groin protector. Perforated eardrums are
common, get and wear the anti-blast ear plugs. I wear them whenever we're
in a vehicle,just in case of IED's. Purell hand sanitizer is a good piece
of gear also."
And:"Got another one you'll like: Air strike went in on the outskirts of
Fallujah targeting a specific building hiding some Foreign Fighters
from Syria or Chechnya trying to infiltrate. Good hit, target destroyed.
About thirty seconds later, my radio battalion guys monitor a cell phone call
from a terrorist cell leader, saying "the Americans missed me, but they just
hit XXXXXX's house across the street." We called the air dogs back, had
them re-target and run another strike. BIG BOOM! Secondary explosions all
over the place from a weapons/ammunition cache they had in the house that
the idiot just called from. Thanks for the assist Hadji. He's doing a
one-on-one interview with Allah right about now.
The Adventures of Chester
Sunday, November 21, 2004
There is an image burned into my brain that I hope I never forget. We came up behind 3/5 one day as the lead squads were working down the Byzantine streets of the Jolan area. An assault team of two Marines ran out from behind cover and put a rocket into a wall of an enemy strongpoint. Before the smoke cleared the squad behind them was up and moving through the hole and clearing the house. Just down the block another squad was doing the same thing. The house was cleared quickly and the Marines were running down the street to the next contact. Even in the midst of that mayhem, it was an awesome site.
The fighting has been incredibly close inside the city. The enemy is willing to die and is literally waiting until they see the whites of the eyes of the Marines before they open up. Just two days ago, as a firefight raged in close quarters, one of the interpreters yelled for the enemy in the house to surrender. The enemy yelled back that it was better to die and go to heaven than to surrender to infidels. This exchange is a graphic window into the world that the Marines and Soldiers have been fighting in these last 10 days.
I could go on and on about how the city was taken but one of the most amazing aspects to the fighting was that we saw virtually no civilians during the battle. Only after the fighting had passed did a few come out of their homes. They were provided food and water and most were evacuated out of the city. At least 90-95% of the people were gone from the city when we attacked.
I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet. I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred. No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am confident that the meat is correct.
The first is a Marine from 3/5. His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson). As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door. As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out. The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg. He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway. Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover. As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway. Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety. The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in. He immediately entered the room following the second explosion. He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine. You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled. Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in. Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds.
The Green Side
"Even in Fallujah, flushing out insurgents is no easy task, despite overwhelming US firepower. The Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) company launched two concerted attacks over the weekend, clearing blocks of suspect houses in conjunction with other units across the city.
US marines on a foot patrol this weekend paid little attention to a man walking along the road and holding a white flag - a common sight as the conflict dies down and civilians pop up to scavenge for food and water.
But this time, US officers say, as the marines came by, the man dipped into an alley, returned with an AK-47 assault rifle, and sprayed the marines with bullets. Two Americans died, and others were wounded."
Fallujah attacks expose new risks | csmonitor.com
Friday, November 19, 2004
Fallujah yields up weapons, videos | csmonitor.com
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Yet in the heat of the moment Saturday, a young marine did severe damage to the image of a precise and clean assault that the US had hoped to project from Fallujah. The footage has already become more fodder on jihadi websites peddling the conspiracy theory that the US is on a crusade against global Islam. It also caused cringing in the capitals of US friends and allies. Tuesday, UN Human Rights chief Louise Arbour called for an investigation of alleged US abuses in Fallujah. The incident, captured by NBC reporter Kevin Sites, who is embedded with the Marines 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, is chilling. In a mosque that had seen heavy fighting the day before, marines enter to find Iraqi dead and wounded slumped against a wall. One of the marines begins cursing and shouting about a wounded man, insisting he's "faking he's dead." A marine fires at the man's upper body, and another marine says, "He's dead now."
Setback to US image in war | csmonitor.com
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
"The CO is dead," he rasped, "and I'll tell you why. They were just a gaggle walking into some house. They weren't clearing the building properly before going in.
"We were doing that, and that's why we're living. Do not let your guard down here, or you'll be the next one dead." '
'The CO is dead,' troops are told - The Washington Times: World - November 15, 2004
Wyoming digest - billingsgazette.com
Throughout the fight, most people seen outside have been armed, and have been engaged.
"I really liked what I saw in there," says Corporal Victor Gomez, a scout on a light armored vehicle. "I didn't want to come in here [to Fallujah], shoot a load of rounds and then leave, as if we'd done our job. That really set my mind at ease today."
Next Fallujah battle: hearts, minds | csmonitor.com
Saturday, November 13, 2004
FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM: SMOKIN' IN FALLUJAH
November 11, 2004 -- Your Page One photograph of the Marine hit me between the eyes ("Smokin'," Nov. 10).
This guy is all-GI.
That dirty face, the whiskers on his unshaven face, the cut on the bridge of his nose, the dangling cigarette and the 1,000-yard stare in those battle weary eyes tell the story of what's really going on in Fallujah.
His features are reminiscent of the renowned World War II GI that Mattel replicated to make its GI Joe.
Forget about these Pentagon generals with their spotless dress uniforms, spit-shined shoes, $100 haircuts and shiny, manicured nails.
This guy's nails and hands are laced with blood. His sweaty body smells from sleeping in the sand. His breath stinks from eating field rations.
As the winds of November blow across Indiana, I sit comfortably drinking coffee as this guy, and thousands of other GIs, bravely and valiantly battle throughout the filth and stench of these Fallujah neighborhoods.
You are the best, and we think of you in the spirit of Veterans Day. Earl Beal
Terre Haute, Ind.
How many kids trying to emulate heroic U.S. soldiers in Iraq will choose to slowly commit suicide as a direct result of your ill-conceived Marlboro pandering?
Be a responsible part of the community instead of simply leeching off it 25 cents at a time. Terry Craw
Thank you, New York Post, for Wednesday's cover.
Finally, a newspaper that acknowledges our soldiers and reports the good news about the war in Iraq.
I am going to frame this cover.
For the first time, I feel the pride of our soldiers and am reminded that America has the strongest military in the world.
Our soldiers need more positive coverage as a reminder to the American people that they are in Iraq, ready, willing and able to win the War on Terror.
America needs to stand together, and the media should start covering the good news coming out of Iraq. Misty Sawyer
How much did Phillip Morris pay for the front cover advertisement?
Thank you for continuing to encourage the development of cancer. Mark Leininger
Your cover is a disgrace.
War is not a video game.
Actual people are losing their lives.
At least 10 U.S. soldiers died early in this battle, not to mention many innocent Iraqi civilians who hadn't left the area.
This man is not a cartoon character. He is a real man who has just been through some of the most trying moments of his life — moments that will most likely haunt him forever.
Yet, there you are exploiting him and promoting cigarettes.
It's disgusting. John Keenan
The Post's cover was horrible and crude.
How could you compare our soldiers to the Marlboro Man?
We are not "kicking butt" in Iraq.
We are in an unjustified war with a people who will never allow democracy to come to their country. Janna Passuntino
I was shocked to see the front page of your newspaper.
Showing a GI smoking and portraying it as being cool is disgusting, to say the least.
First of all, you are promoting smoking, even though it is a health hazard.
Secondly, our brave men and women are fighting a tough war in Iraq, and to show them as you did does not do them justice.
Maybe showing a Marine in a tank, helping another GI or drinking water would have had a more positive impact on your readers.
Smoking should be outlawed, not endorsed. Ali Mahdi
North Brunswick, N.J.
Thank God New York isn't occupied by terrorists.
Mayor Bloomberg wouldn't allow a Marine who smokes to enter the city.
He would probably rather be a prisoner than see someone smoke. Hank Sbordone
NEW YORK POST is a registered trademark of NYP Holdings, Inc. NYPOST.COM, NYPOSTONLINE.COM, and NEWYORKPOST.COM
are trademarks of NYP Holdings, Inc.
Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.
Photo Gallery :: Troops reach heart of Fallujah :: 1
On Monday, two Marine regimental combat teams swept into Fallujah from the north while a U.S. Army brigade held the southern rim of the city to prevent insurgents from escaping. Piccoli said U.S. Army and Iraqi forces were an integral part of the invasion force.
Marine Corps Times - News - More News
We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, his friends and his mates.
Friday, November 12, 2004
The Adventures of Chester: "Note who he thinks is doing the southern cordoning. This seems correct, and the USMC forces are probably the 4th Recon Battalion, and whatever Light Armored Reconnaissance battalion is in theater.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Later that day and several blocks away, Raider Scouts searching other buildings found four more men. They also said they stayed behind to guards their houses, and that they had been tortured.
But further questioning found that there were no signs of torture - militants in Fallujah typically kill suspected traitors - and that the men's claimed identities did not hold up to investigation.
"It was well rehearsed," said Lt. Michael Aubry from Arlington Heights, Ill. "The first time didn't look suspicious, but the second time ... it did."
"There are sleeper cells all over the place," says Juarez. New rebel tactics emerge in Fallujah | csmonitor.com
light armored reconnaissance company, demonstrated how overwhelming U.S. firepower has dominated the fight.
Bravo's final attack of the day, mounted jointly with vehicles of a light armored reconnaissance company, demonstrated how overwhelming U.S. firepower has dominated the fight.
"href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-11-09-fallujah-scene_x.htm">USATODAY.com - Marines blast into Fallujah
Monday, November 08, 2004
Honolulu Star-Bulletin Hawaii News
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street for all the people to see that
Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
We'll all meet back at the local saloon
We'll raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses
US heading into major urban assault in Iraq | csmonitor.com
Saturday, November 06, 2004
"U.S. Marines of the Light Armored Reconnaissance, or LAR, company on patrol Thursday near Fallujah, found a gap between canals. Already at the chokepoint, there was a crater--formed not long ago, when an armored vehicle had rolled through and blew up an anti-tank mine.
Suspicious because the crater forced the convoy along a very narrow dirt path, Marines dismounted from the first armored vehicle and walked it through the breach unharmed.
The second vehicle, however, hit another anti-tank mine, blowing the 14-ton chassis into a muddy fishtail, tearing away a rear tire, and blasting open the armored rear doors, wounding two Marines and an American photographer. It's a pretty good tactic, to force the vehicle to drive around the blast hole," said Cpl. Christopher DeBlanc, a team leader from Spotsylvania County. "There's nothing you can do," said 1st Lt. Paul Webber, an LAR platoon commander, nodding toward the two craters. "Somebody's got to go through here, sometime. It was just a matter of time. They knew." The new crater--4 feet deep and 8 feet wide in dark fertile farming soil--looked precisely like the first one. And there were other strange signs picked up by the Marines as they piled boxes of explosives, rockets, and ammunition from the diesel-soaked vehicle.
The blast destroyed the amphibious propeller and spread camouflage pack material across the waving reeds. A pile of burning ash included 25 mm shell casings.
Every one of those, now rusted, had been taken apart, and their primer taken by insurgents. The primer can act as a blasting cap for improved explosive devices, or IEDs.
The Marines fanned out across the muddy fields, detaining two sheep herders and stopping a car that did not halt with machine-gun fire.
Another man emerged from the reeds with his hands up, claiming to be from Tikrit, with $400 in his pocket.
But the Marines who remained at the blast site marveled at what they saw as their bad luck--this platoon had never been hit before--and at their relative good luck. No Marines died; the wounds to the two were not life-threatening; and Stephanie Kuykendal, an American freelance photographer for Corbis photo agency,had only wounds to her mouth.
Fredericksburg.com - Spotsylvania Marine on Fallujah strike force
The New York Times > International > Middle East > G.I.'s Itch to Prove Their Mettle in Falluja
Friday, November 05, 2004
"A reader asks in the comments section how I can know what is going on if I'm not there. Excellent question. Short answer: educated guesswork. I was a staff officer involved in planning before, during and after the invasion. Though I was in nary a firefight, figuring out the big picture was my job. I should note that I am not going to post anything that I think will endanger our boys. I have some pretty wild ideas about the ground assault that I will keep to myself. I am a combat engineer by training and the idea of going into a fortified city has my creative juices flowing . . ."
Thursday, November 04, 2004
By NICOLE FENEBERG LUCHT
LAUGHLIN — Letter-writing may seem to be as contemporary as videocassette recorders or manual typewriters to some, but to U.S. troops deployed to Iraq, a simple letter could be the one thing to brighten the day.
And that is exactly what Carrie Roberts’ fourth grade class is doing. The young scribes at William G. Bennett Elementary School are writing to U.S. Marines deployed to the Persian Gulf region.
One of the Marines fortunate enough to be sent a greeting from home is Lance Cpl. Andrew James Witzel, 19, of Bullhead City; a Marine with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion attached to the 1st Marine Division.
His father, Bill Witzel, visited Roberts’ class Oct. 19, armed with a slide show and anecdotes from his son and fellow Marines.
Bill explained to the class what U.S. Marines do and the sort of training they undergo, living conditions and what is most often requested during the 20 minute satellite phone calls Andrew makes home.
Although Bill said Andrew cannot discuss the operations and missions he is involved in, he has described Iraq’s environment, saying the physical geography is similar to that of the Tri-state area, minus the mountains.
Bill said one of the most frequent requests he receives from his son are unscented baby wipes, toilet paper and cigarettes. Bill said the troops will often use these “valuable” items to trade amongst each other.
Bill said he just sent Andrew a large box of the needed goods.
The proud Marine’s father also fielded questions from the fourth graders, questions ranging from diet to haircut regulations to why Andrew joined the Marine Corps.
“(Andrew) absolutely worshiped his grandfather (Max M. Witzel) ... a World War II (Marine) dive-bomber in the Pacific,” Bill said.
Roberts said her 26 students wrote their first letters about four weeks ago and described the letters as entertaining stories about the students’ lives.
“For a moment in time, (the Marines) can laugh and smile,” Roberts said. “(The class) feels the power in what they are doing.”
The students wrote about friendships, asked questions and told knock-knock jokes, Roberts said. The students will begin composing their second set of letters soon.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
"On Captain Gill Juarez's desk in a Spartan makeshift operations center, is a worn book called "Russia's Chechnya Wars 1994-2000: Lessons from Urban Combat." The light armor commander has asked all his officers to read it, to understand how Russia's superior firepower - brought to bear destroying the Chechen capital, Grozny - did not bring victory.
"It's no secret for mechanized units: you're vulnerable [in urban warfare]," says Juarez. "You have to have dismounted security. I tell my scouts [marines on the ground] that they need to have eyeballs 'one feature over.' They need to know what's going on the other side of the wall or the berm."
A further challenge in Fallujah, US commanders say, is the apparent ease and speed with which insurgents have adapted their tactics. And this offensive will be no surprise to Fallujah - the showdown has been telegraphed for weeks; more than 80 percent of the population of about 300,000 are believed to have left the city to avoid the invasion.
"They've had a lot more time to prepare," says Lt. Col. Michael Ramos of Dallas, a battalion commander. If past operations are any measure, the marines are likely to face an array of roadside bombs, booby traps, and other surprises.
Every vehicle in the city will be considered a potential car bomb; every person who remains, a potential insurgent. Guerrillas spread their expertise on the Internet and word of mouth throughout their strongholds. "The use of technology is really changing the face of warfare," says Colonel Ramos. "The speed with which you can spread an idea is so fast. The loop between action and innovation is getting smaller and smaller."
Despite those changes, the battle for built-up Fallujah is expected to be an infantry fight. And some insurgents still fight the old way, even against tanks.
"We've seen the enemy come running at our tanks with small arms fire," says Capt. Robert Bodisch, an M1A1 tank company commander, who adds that his units "every day reduce the insurgent population of Fallujah."
"I think they honestly believe they can damage us," says Captain Bodisch. "But then they are not around long enough to go back and tell their buddies." Still, the tanks are "not really designed to fight in an urban environment," the captain says. "We've had to change our tactics."
The dry runs with combat units this week are yielding lessons, and ironing out issues before they turn into battlefield problems. "Good job on concealment - you guys were up a little bit too long," says Cpl. Steven Komin of Mundeleine, Ill., standing on a crushed concrete platform to address the fire teams after the combat drill. "You've got to move quickly - sometimes you won't have cover at all; just work with what you have."
"We're looking forward to this," says Lance Cpl. Geoffrey Bivens of Katy, Texas, one of the marines doing the mock urban combat training. "Now [insurgents] are really scared to come close to us. They know it's suicide."
"They're just spraying and praying," says Lance Cpl. Lance Fischer, of Bradenton, Fla., dismissing insurgent rifle fire. "They're not trained marksmen, like we are."
That sparked a warning from Corporal Bivens: "Yeah, but they're spraying and praying at chest height."
Marines prep for a shifting enemy | csmonitor.com
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Monday, November 01, 2004
"The Marine Corps made extensive and successful use of their Light Armored Reconnaissance units equipped primarily with the wheeled LAV-25 (Light Armored Vehicle) which carried a 25mm cannon to protect convoys, fight irregulars and patrol their sector of Iraq. The 1st Marine Division's after-action report concluded that with some important upgrades, such as a heavy gun/mortar capability, these units 'can be the most lethal, versatile forces on the battlefield.'"
The U.S. Army Professional Writing Collection:
ANNE GARRELS reporting: Marines are preparing for the offensive, wondering only when it will happen, not if. In addition to the daily bombing attacks on Fallujah, troops on the ground run regular reconnaissance missions probing the enemy to draw him out learn more about his tactics and keep him off guard. Over the weekend, Marines were returning from several days in the field when the company commander, Captain Gerald Garcia saw cars suddenly come out from behind a wall of some kind. Captain GERALD GARCIA (US Marines Company Commander): I looked into his face as I drove by. I looked at him, he looked at me, gave me a look I'll never forget and looked down into his steering wheel and then I--you know, everything came together--white suburban, multiple bullet holes through the windshield, you know, the only vehicle sitting around anywhere. GARRELS: As 35-year-old Garcia radioed to warn the rest of his convoy--a matter of seconds--the suicide bomber rammed into a seven-ton truck carrying several Marines. Cap. GARCIA: There was people jumping off of other trucks and jumping onto that truck as it was on fire and as it was melting. You know, with no regard for their own body and their own safety and pulling off Marines that were burning alive. We were carrying our ammunition and pyro so grenades were going off, rounds were cooking off. Marines didn't care, they just jumped up there. Our Marines, they're incredible. GARRELS: The Marines continued to come under attack in what was clearly a well-planned assault. Help arrived but eight Marines were dead, nine injured, three of them severely. These Marines have only been in Iraq for a couple of weeks. They were sent in specially to reinforce units for the anticipated assault, which will target insurgents' stronghold throughout Al Anbar province. Colonel MICHAEL RAMOS (US Marines, Battalion Commander): You have to learn fast in this environment. Marines are great at learning fast and adapting to the enemy. Techniques, tactics and procedures, that's what we're doing and we're going to be ready. GARRELS: Battalion Commander Colonel Michael Ramos says they've learned some painful lessons in the short period they've been here. Col. RAMOS: The enemy is willing to sacrifice lives. They're willing to martyr themselves for what they believe to be an important cause. The enemy studies the movements of our forces. They improvise as well. They are crafty and cunning. GARRELS: While the Marines are trying to keep the insurgents on edge, the insurgents are doing the same thing. As the new battalion of Marines was settling into its base of operations, the insurgents had a welcome present for them. Sergeant Major Michael Burgh(ph) says a rocket landed in their midst, wounding 10. Sergeant Major MICHAEL BURGH (US Marines): They'll kind of aim it in the general direction, shoot it off and they get out of there because they know our counter-battery fire, it's going to pinpoint right where they're at. So they'll get one or two rockets off and they hope they hit something. So, yeah, it's luck of the draw what they hit. They were real lucky that day. GARRELS: Most of the Marines who fought in Fallujah in April, before the Pentagon ordered them to cease fire, have rotated out. So for many, this will be their first big battle in Iraq. And for many, it will be their first real combat ever. They will be entering a city, which officers say is held by several thousand insurgents who've honed their skills since their last major encounter with the Marines in the spring. Captain Gerald Garcia says the commander of his regimental combat team believes this will be something entirely new for everyone. Cap. GARCIA: He told us, `If any of you were here before, forget what you know and what you thought you knew about what's happening here.' It's absolutely a different atmosphere. I don't think anybody has the upper hand on it.