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Fallujah

Fallujah is a large town forty miles west of Baghdad. The town of Fallujah measures 3k wide x 3.5k long. It was there, early in the Gulf War, that a British jet intending to bomb a bridge had accidentally dropped two laser guided bombs on a crowded market. Between 50 and 150 civilians died and many more were injured when the RAF laser guided bomb which missed its target exploded in a built-up area of Fallujah. Four laser-guided bombs were dropped on the Fallujah Bridge. At least one struck in the middle while one or possibly two bombs fell short in the river. The fourth bomb veered to the right and hit a market in the town. It appeared to have failed to engage its laser guidance system.

Early in 244, the Roman and Sassanian armies met near the city of Misiche (modern Fallujah). Shapur's forces were triumphant, and the city was renamed Peroz-Shapur, "Victorious [is] Shapur." Shapur commemorated his victory with a sculpture and trilingual inscription (at Naqsh-i-Rustam in modern-day Iran) that claimed that Gordian III was killed in the battle. However Gordian III died, it seems unlikely to have been as a direct result of the battle at Misiche/Peroz-Shapur. The emperor's Persian campaigns were promoted within the Roman Empire as a success. Other than the loss of Hatra, the Sassanians gained control over no additional territory as a result of the war, and Shapur did not disturb Roman interests in upper Mesopotamia for nearly eight years.

Iraq's development as a modern, industrial society has been aided by a network of highways and railroads between the major cities and the outlying provinces. In 1914 Iraq had only two main roads, one from Baghdad across the desert to Al Fallujah on the Euphrates and the other, used mainly for produce, from Mosul to Mardin, Turkey.

Fallujah is the most violence prone area in Iraq and since early April 2003 they have experienced violent crowd control incidents, murders and bombings. The commanders in this area have not authorized the use of non-lethal munitions in the ROE focusing on protecting the force with shoot to kill orders on the sighting of and AK-47 or RPG in the hands of someone outside of a private home. This draconian approach has forced these weapons off the street as battle hardened members of the 3ID have enforced order in the Sunni Triangle.

The emergence of Fallujah as a seat of Sunni resistance is explained by the fact that many of its inhabitants are followers of the Wahabi sect. Fallujah is a traditional, Sunni Wahabi extremist tribal hotbed. Fallujah has been a base of Wahabi action for quite some time, going back into the 1990s, perhaps even into the 1980s. In Fallujah, Ramadi, and in other Sunni centers anti-occupation attacks by insurgents are said to be planned by the Committee of the Faith, a group of Wahabi-based Sunni Muslims. Under Saddam Hussein Fallujah's mosque imams were subjected to persecution because they refused to eulogize Saddam in sermons after prayers.

Baathist-regime supporters, foreign terrorists and other malcontents in and around Fallujah have been attacking since U.S. and coalition forces moved toward the city to subdue those responsible for the 31 March 2004 killing and debasement of four American contractors and the deaths of five soldiers killed by an improvised explosive device. Marines moved into the city west of Baghdad in force after four U.S. contractors were killed and their bodies mutilated. "We will win the hearts and minds of Fallujah by ridding the city of insurgents," said a squad leader with 1st Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. "We're doing that by patrolling the streets and killing the enemy."

The office of U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer issued a press release on 9 April 2004 announcing that U.S. forces had initiated "a unilateral suspension of offensive operations" in the Iraqi city of Al-Fallujah following five days of intense fighting there between coalition troops and Iraqi insurgents. The truce was mainly meant to allow the reopening of the Fallujah General Hospital and the Jordanian Hospital, which had been forced to close because of the siege imposed by the Marines. The two hospitals were "forced to shut down" after US Marines took positions on the roads leading to them. Iraqi hospital officials in Al-Fallujah report 600 Iraqis have been killed in the fighting there so far and that more than 1,250 people have been injured. The Iraqi sources said more than half of the dead are women and children.

Some members of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council strongly criticed the US military over civilian casualties in Al-Fallujah. They said the US response has been disproportionate and indiscriminate. US officials insisted they are doing everything they can to minimize civilian deaths. US military spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said insurgents in the city are using Iraqi civilians as human shields and are firing weapons at US forces from inside schools, mosques, and hospitals. Civilians in Al-Fallujah were allowed to leave only after several days of fighting had already occurred.

By 17 April 2004 -- a week after coalition forces unilaterally suspended offensive military operations in Fallujah -- the overall situation in and around the city remained unchanged. Provocative attacks continued in Fallujah despite the observance of a unilateral suspension of offensive operations. Anti-coalition forces in Fallujah continued to use local mosques for weapons storage. They were building roadblocks in the city and continue preparations for renewed fighting. The fighters had taken over many homes, forcing out those residents while others remain barricaded in their homes. By 19 April 2004 the US-led coalition said it had reached an agreement with local community leaders to defuse tension in the western Iraqi city of Al-Fallujah. The agreement included joint patrolling with coalition and Iraqi security forces.

The sound of heavy fighting soon returned to the western Iraqi town of Fallujah. Marines battled for several hours 20 April 2004 with Sunni militants who they said had yet to turn in any of their heavy weapons as called for in an agreement aimed at preventing a threatened US assault on the city. US military officials expressed skepticism that Fallujah's leaders could convince fighters in the town to turn in their weapons. Marines were poised to move in with force to pacify the city if necessary.

Televised images dramatically captured another response after enemy forces attacked coalition defensive positions in Fallujah late 27 April 2004. Troops on the ground called for close-air support, and coalition air assets fired on a flatbed truck and sedan, setting off secondary explosions that lasted at least 20 minutes due to the large amount of ammunition the vehicles carried. The insurgents fled to a nearby building, and when coalition aircraft fired on it, large amounts of ordnance being stored inside set off big secondary explosions.

The six weeks of fighting ended in a truce, amid reports of hundreds of civilian deaths. The agreement turned over security to a force -- the "Fallujah Brigade" -- led by former officers of Hussein's demobilized army. This enitity quickly collapsed, and control of the town has passed into the hands of insurgents.

By 30 October 2004 US forces were conducting airstrikes against suspected militant bases in Al-Fallujah as they prepared for a major operation to root out insurgents in the Sunni Muslim stronghold. Officials from the interim Iraqi government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said a delegation was continuing last-minute talks with Al-Fallujah authorities in hopes of finding a peaceful solution to the insurgency.

Camp Baharia

FOB Volturno was renamed Camp Baharia when the Marine Corps took over the facility. The facility, specifically named after the Marine Corps, uses an Arabic word for the Marine Corps, 'mushaat al-baharia,' which translates into 'walkers of the navy' or naval infantry. When written in Arabic, it reportedly looks almost like the phrase "with freedom."

The facility is the closest U.S. base to Fallujah and located about 2 miles southeast of the city of Fallujah. Sitting near a palm-tree-lined, artificial lake, the location was once a Ba'ath Party retreat called Dreamland frequented by Saddam Hussein's sons. The lake also sports a waterside amphitheater from where Saadam's sons could reportedly watch boat races. An island connected to the shore by a stone bridge with white lamp-posts sits in the middle of the lake.

Most of the Marine personel stationed at Camp Baharia are lodged in cement bungalows fitted with plywood windows; the rest being housed in tents.

As of late september 2004, the facility had 134 portable toilets

As of late September 2004, Apache Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion was stationed at Camp Baharia. The unit informally renamed its portion of Camp Baharia, Camp Geronimo. That designation had not officially been recognized by any other unit or organization and is only used internally within the unit.

Camp Baharia’s camp's store, also known as the Baharia PX, is stocked with everything from sunglasses to socks, and electronics to energy drinks and serves as a one-stop shop for forward deployed service members' health and comfort needs. The PX serves about 2,000 customers and makes about $20- to $30,000 every week, though this can double when units are rotating in and out. The PX boasts tax-free prices on all its wares, in addition to doorstep delivery service.

PX Marines pack up a portion of their inventory and head out once a week as part of a supply and logistics convoy to support troops living and operating out of bases in and around Northern Fallujah who are often unable to visit the Baharia exchange. At these makeshift bases, forward deployed personnel may purchase clothing, hygiene gear and enough goodies to see them through another week from the ‘PX on wheels,’ a seven-ton truck packed with goods. In addition, marines and Sailors in Baharia and in the field may also withdraw cash to make these purchases from a disbursing clerk, another asset of this PX.

As of early September 2005, Camp Baharia's Internet café provided Marines and sailors with access to several telephones and computers with Internet, web camera and instant messaging capabilities.

On their off time, troops may also attend religious services at the camp chapel, work out in the camp's gym tent, or purchase hygiene and entertainment supplies at the Baharia exchange.


FOB Volturno

FOB Volturno is a few miles away from FOB St Mere. It is named after the Volturno River. The fall of Sicily in the summer of 1943 cleared the way for an Allied Invasion of the Italian mainland. As part of General Mark Clark's Fifth Army, the 1st Armored Division crushed enemy resistance in an assault landing at Salerno on September 9, and led the drive to Naples. The city fell on October 1, and the Allies pressed onto the Volturno River, strongly defended by the German Tenth Army. Two battalions of the 505th [the 2/505 under Lieutenant Colonel Alexander (promoted in Sicily) and the 1/505 under Major Winton] were sent on a mission to aid the British forces in their push across the river. Joining with the British 23rd Armored Brigade, the paratroopers would be the spearhead of the river crossing.

TF 1-505 operated out of FOB Volturno (near Fallujah) and was working extremely hard to turn the town of Fallujah around. Fallujah had been a hot spot with very little military activity since the beginning of OIF. TF 1-505 developed a positive relationship with the civilian leadership and police in Fallujah and has begun joint patrols. At one point, it conducted a cordon and search and detained several key anti-coalition leaders. The quality of life improvements at FOB Volturno was improving every day with every soldier living in an A/C building and eating at least two hot meals a day. They had access to satellite TV, showers, and telephone service (10 minutes per week).

FOB Laurie

Soldiers from the 361st Psychological Operations Company placed a loud speaker on the roof to broadcast messages at FOB Laurie preparing for an organized demonstration on April 2, 2003. Members from the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion interacted with the Iraqi civilians. After a grenade attack on FOB Laurie on April 30, 2003, a vehicle was left with exterior damage, three flat tires and a destroyed radiator. Three soldiers who were sleeping in the vehicle were wounded in the attack. A Cavalry Fighting Vehicle sat behind the walls of FOB Laurie posted for force protection in the still-hostile city just west of Baghdad. Two Army snipers from the 1st Armor Division sat atop the roof of the compound building at FOB Laurie to add security.



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