Saturday, September 13, 2008

Suicide Bombers, D-ring Bling and Hospitality

St. Patrick's Day 2006 was anything but lucky for 5 Marines now part of the Marine detachment at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. On March 17, 2007, insurgents drove an explosive laden dump truck through the front gate of the Marine's Battle Post (BP).

On second thought, maybe the luck of the Irish was with them, a Humvee they had parked across the final entry point to the post ultimately stopped the dump truck, preventing it from being able to drive in through the front door of the post. When all the shooting stopped, dust settled and ear ringing ended, an Iraqi and an Marine were wounded. If you could have seen the photos of the crater (large enough for a Humvee) and the pieces of the dump truck scattered around/embedded in the compound, its safe to say that had that truck hit its target, three of the five Marines would not be here today.

From left to right, Cpl Wangler, LCpl Daily and Sgt Maldonado shared their experiences from one of their Iraqi deployments (They have been to Iraq together twice) with the museum docents.


The Marines, working as MIT advisers to the Iraqi Army had been tipped off moments before the attack began. A townsman had approached an Iraqi Army check point and told them there were many out-of-towners with weapons. The patrol radioed the BP. The Marines and their Iraqi counter parts started to head upstairs to the roof of their building when they started taking heavy small arms fire. They were so pre-occupied with the small arms fire they didn't notice the dump truck rumbling down the road at them, until it hit the humvee blocking the final entry way and exploded.

Cpl Tack was shot in the leg just before the explosion. Cpl Wangler was running up the stairs to assist when the bomb went off.

The explosion was so strong that the Marines outside the building said it looked like a giant wave picked the building up and slammed it back to the ground. Cpl Wangler was thrown back down the stairs.

The Humvee, manned by an Iraqi had been tossed into the air and rolled three times. The steel plates that had been put over the windows of the building were blown completely off the building. Huge, jagged, chunks of steel from the dump truck and humvee came raining down, spearing the cement roof and anything else that unluckily got in the way.

Docents gasped at the scene the Marines were painting. Maybe, based upon the expressions of their audience, they quickly said, "No was killed. An Iraqi lost his leg and Tack was wounded."

The insurgents had planned the attack well, to the point they even put bullet proof glass into the windshield on the truck to protect the driver from getting shot. Their goal was to destroy the entire BP and everyone in it.

Four miles away, Marines at another BP, felt the explosion and were summoned to assist the Marines and Iraqis. En-route, they encountered a mini dump truck called a bongo truck, parked and blocking the road. Cautiously they pushed it with their Humvee and cleared enough room to get by and nothing blew up! As soon as they passed the bongo truck, they encountered small arms fire and fought their way to the stricken BP.

After the fight was over, the Marines were returning to their BP. The bongo truck exploded as the second Humvee passed. Luckily, the engine block absorbed the blast. The Marine and Corpsman only suffered concussions. The Humvee wasn't as lucky, it looked like something had just bit off the front of the vehicle.

D-Ring Bling

MIT teams (military transition teams) consist of 10-12 Iraqis and 2 Marine advisers, a Cpl or LCpl.

The Marines expressed feeling a bit cautious at first when they started their second deployment as MIT advisers. However, they said, you have to be willing to trust people. They found the Iraqis to be eager and quick learners. They also recognized that the Iraqis had taken great personal risk to volunteer to be soldiers.

Some of the problems they initially had were with cell phones. The Iraqis all had them and loved talking on them. Wangler spoke of going on patrols and he'd turn around and see a soldier walking, looking at the ground, talking on his cell phone. The Marines were advisers so they weren't to discipline men but point out to the Iraqi LT, what his men were doing incorrectly and the Iraqi platoon leader took it from there. After that, the Iraqis would try to hide their cell phones by using ear pieces and having the phone down their shirt.

"But the talking to themselves is what gave them away", Wangler said.

The Marines all said the Iraqis wanted to be like Americans.

"Everything was questions with the Iraqis. They wanted to touch everything and try on all our gear. They were like little kids on Christmas."

One piece of American equipment the Iraqis were especially fond of were D-rings - - aka carabiners. Marines use them to attach equipment to their vests. Iraqis would attach anything that they thought would look good hanging from a D-ring.

A docent asked what the funniest thing they'd seen an Iraqi hang from a D-ring.

"A rifle"

Yes, he said a rifle. A rifle being carried on a d-ring during a patrol.

When they ended their deployment, Daily said he felt "I have hope for Iraq because they have progressed so much."

The Iraqis he said were not tactically proficient but they were running toward gun fire. He could tell the Iraqis had heart to fight and stand up for their country.

Wangler said when he left, he was very impressed with the Iraqis. They knew what they were doing and were doing what the Marines had taught them.


Maldonado said one thing that he was impressed with was the hospitality of the Iraqi people. He found the people to be very friendly.

"The hospitality of the Iraqis is something Americans could learn from."

They talked of times going to a home while they were on patrol to ask for water and being invited in for a meal.

Post deployment

Maldonado said the Iraqis that had worked with the Americans for 3 years could be granted a visa to the US. The interpreter that he worked with came to the US a year ago. Maldonado picked him up at the air port and invited him to stay at his parents house.

"My mom was terrified."

His interpreter has a green card and is now at Paris Island going through boot camp to become a Marine.

At the conclusion of their presentation, the Marines received a standing ovation.


Following their presentation, the Marines showed off some of the current equipment that Marines carry/wear into battle.

Here Daily helps my friend M (and a new docent) with the 'old' style bullet proof vest.


Maldonado and Wangler describe the new vests, equipped with a quick release emergency pull cord. By the way, the quick release cord should only be pulled if you can't get out of a burning vehicle or are drowning. Once pulled the vest has to be sent out to be re-strung.


Daily explains the new Molle (pronounced molly) packs.


Included in the MOLLE pack is an air mattress. The Marine's were really interested in this. All commented "Wait, they get air mattresses now?"


No comments: