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HUSAYBAH, Iraq - A sign welcoming those crossing the Syrian border to Iraq near Camp Gannon stands as a testiment of the Marines determination against the insurgents who attacked their camp with suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, small arms fire and RPGs April 11. Heavy small arms fire from insurgents destroyed the signs once pristine apperance.

Photo by Submitted by 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment

India, 3/2’s stand against insurgency

11 Apr 2005 | Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

Since arriving at this bunker-enforced, secluded base on the edge of the Iraqi-Syrian boarder, Marines of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team-2 have experienced mortar-fire from the insurgency on a regular basis. But April 11 would turn out to be a different experience for an entire company of Marines. By the end of the day these Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., gained confidence in their abilities to stand against extraordinary odds. That morning a group of four mortar rounds flew over the base. Twenty-two-year-old Cpl. Roy Mitros was the sergeant of the guard when this happened. “It was definitely out of the norm because all of them were within 5 to 10 meters of each other,” he explained. The Huntsville, Ala., native hurried to the combat operations center (COC) to report the location of the rounds to the watch officer. At that point the base came under heavy mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire as the COC took three RPG rockets blowing the doors off. Mitros went to get the quick reaction force, finding them all ready with their gear on. While this was happening, a dump truck and a fire trucks rolled toward the front entrance of the camp and the Marines on post were engaged with small arms fire. A young lance corporal armed with an M-249 squad automatic weapon, who was also engaged by enemy fire at his post, heard the loud rumble of a diesel engine inching closer toward him.SUICIDE TRUCKS, BRAVE MARINES Corporal Anthony Fink, a 21-year-old Columbus, Ohio native and Lance Cpl.s Joe Lampe and Roger Leyton were manning a M-240G medium machinegun when their bunker was hit with an RPG knocking them to the ground. The dust and sand from the busted sandbags clouded their view of the oncoming truck and small arms fire forced them to keep their heads down. From his post, Lance Cpl. Joshua Butler saw a white dump truck rolling past Fink’s position toward his post and the front entrance. The 20-year-old Altoona, Pa. native engaged the truck with 20 to 30 5.56 mm rounds as it veered off the road and detonated about 40 meters from his post, creating a crater and sending a wall of smoke into the air. Butler was thrown into one of the walls of his post as shrapnel and debris landed around him. One piece broke through his goggles that rested on the front of his Kevlar helmet. Getting up to check himself and moving down the wall of his post to gain better cover, he heard another distinct diesel engine rumble. “When I saw the truck I thought ‘I can’t believe this is happening again,” he said. A couple of seconds later, a red fire truck cleared the smoke the previous truck left heading toward Butler and his post at about 40 mph. “It was like nothing I’d ever seen before,” he explained. Fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Charles Young, a 19-year-old from Oldsmar, Fla., fired grenades from a corresponding position at the fire truck hitting directly in front and behind the truck, slowing its progress. As the truck slowed, Butler was able to make out two men inside the truck, their faces covered by black veils. He engaged these men with his SAW, spraying 100 to 150 rounds into the truck causing it to follow the same path its predecessor made exploding 30 meters from his position. “I knew what they were doing and I just tried to stop them,” he said. The explosion created an enormous fire ball that ripped into the air. Doors around the base were blown off their hinges, windows shattered and remains of the fire truck rained down on the entire camp. A third suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated farther out. Mitros arrived with the quick reaction force as the small arms fire continued and Butler was sent to be seen by the corpsman.FIRE CONTINUES As Butler stopped the SVBIED attacks, the assault on Fink’s post continued from multiple directions. Taking fire and returning it, Fink and Leyton began firing 40 mm grenades from a M-203 grenade launcher as 1st Sgt. Donald Brazeal, the company first sergeant, arrived at their position to find out where they were taking the heaviest amount of fire. “(Fink) told me that it was coming from beyond a wall 300 meters from the post, so we reset the machineguns to suppress the wall,” explained the 40-year-old Council Bluffs, Iowa native. Brazeal and Fink pulled out two AT-4 anti-tank missiles. Brazeal fired the first of the two from a HESCO barrier, landing a direct hit on the wall. Fink then followed it with another direct hit. With the insurgents’ position suppressed, they were able to resupply the post with ammunition. As the battle continued, approximately 100 school children ran out of the school across the street from the base. The insurgents sought cover behind them slowing the fighting. “The Marines displayed extreme discipline in not firing at the children,” Brazeal explained.THE AFTERMATH Sgt. Paul Mathis, who helped position Marines throughout the camp during the attacks, described the sight of the fireball caused by the trucks. “It was pretty amazing,” said the 23-year-old squad leader from Churchville, Pa. “I had never seen an explosion that big in my life. Marines that were sleeping in their racks were knocked out of them.” Despite what Brazeal says was an obvious preplanned attack, no one was severely injured. Three causalities were medevaced for minor injuries, but returned later. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessie Beddia, was the primary corpsman during the attacks. “Most of our causalities were internal injuries from the blast wave of the truck explosions, but miraculously nothing was really serious. A couple of Marines complained about some minor hearing loss, but that is common in that situation,” the 31-year-old from Buytown, Texas explained. Butler, being the closest Marine to the blasts, escaped with only some hearing loss which he says was fading in and out a week later. “I really don’t know how I made it off my post that day,” Butler explained. “I tell you, God must be on India Company’s side. We definitely have angels watching over this camp,” Brazeal said. After the attacks subsided, Marines discovered the men in the fire truck were protected by a bullet-proof windshield and were wearing old, American-style ballistic flak jackets. Marines believe the first truck was trying to breach the integrity of the camp and the second truck would then follow its path into the camp, possibly killing Marines, which could have been followed by a ground assault. “I think what Butler did at his post minimized the second driver’s judgment once he left Lance Cpl. Young’s field of fire. I think that the rounds he put into the front of the truck ruined his judgment,” Brazeal explained. “It was really exciting to watch us perform and take out the enemy,” Mitros explained. “Everyday we get to do what we trained to do here,” Mathis explained, as Mitros continued. “When we came here we didn’t want to just sit here and talk about what everyone else is doing. Don’t get me wrong I respect what everyone else is doing at other places. But right now other guys on other bases are sitting there talking about us.” The India, 3/2 “Mafia,” as the Marines have dubbed their company, is led by Capt. Frank Diorio, the company’s commanding officer and camp commandant, who was left speechless after his company displayed the utmost courage. “Proud doesn’t really say it, but it’s the only word I can use to describe how I feel. It was inspiring to see a company of Marines fight back like they did. These Marines were calm against a raging storm,” Diorio continued. “I truly am humbled to be amongst them.” “This whole company is full of Marines who do the right thing at the right time in the right way, and (April 11) is proof of that,” Brazeal concluded.