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CAMP SNAKE PIT Ar Ramadi, Iraq (May 3, 2005) -- Sergeant Seth D. Hickman, squad leader of 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, looks for insurgents who're shooting at him and his fellow Marines here. The Mason City, Iowa, native celebrated part of his 24th birthday on the top of his Company C's command operations center building engaging insurgents with his weapon. Insurgents attacked the company's firm base with small arms fire a few minutes past 8 a.m. The warriors successfully defended their camp from the attack and fought of the terrorists. Photo by Cpl. Tom Sloan

Photo by Cpl. Tom Sloan

Mason City, Iowa, Marine celebrates birthday under fire

3 May 2005 | Cpl. Tom Sloan

Sergeant Seth D. Hickman had some excitement the day he turned 24-years-old, but it wasn’t because his fellow Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, threw him a surprise party.

The Mason City, Iowa, native and squad leader of 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Company C, got his birthday thrills from insurgents when they simultaneously attacked his company’s base and entry control point here with small arms fire a few minutes past 8 a.m.

Thirty insurgents split into two groups, one assaulting the ECP near Camp Snake Pit while the other engaged the Marines at the camp itself.

“I had just gone to sleep when I heard the shooting start,” recalled the 2001 Mason City High School graduate. “I thought it was Marines on our range doing the shooting. We’ve been using it a lot lately so I didn’t pay much attention.”

Hickman was trying to rest after standing a six-hour security post with other Marines from 2nd Platoon the night before. He would have to wait until later to sleep, though.

“The (sergeant of the guard) came into our hooch yelling Snake Pit was taking fire and told us we had to gear up because we were being attacked,” he said. “It took me a second to grasp what was happening because I thought I was dreaming.”

The AK-47 fire woke Hickman up though. He was soon fully awake and aware of what was happening. The terrorists were launching a small-scale attack from the safety of buildings across the street from the camp.

Hickman quickly rallied his Marines and deployed them to various positions on the camp’s perimeter so they could fend off the assault.

“This is the first time our camp’s been attacked,” said Lance Cpl. Eric S. Johnson, Company C’s armorer and 21-year-old native of Vincennes, Ind. “They’re actually attacking us with something other than (improvised explosive devices).” 

After several minutes of returning fire, Hickman realized what day it was.

"This didn’t start out as a normal today, and I think it’s funny that it happened on my birthday,” he said smiling. “I woke up on my birthday to gunfire.”

The insurgents’ gunfire subsided once Company W, the infantry battalion’s quick reaction force, took to the streets and countered their attack.

When the fighting stopped, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines had killed 12 insurgents and one Marine sustained only minor injuries, Marine officials said. 

Being tired and getting shot at isn’t how many would like to spend their birthdays, but Hickman didn’t mind it.

“The excitement from the attack was a good enough present,” he said. “I’ll always remember that I spent my twenty-fourth birthday on the rooftop of a building in Ramadi getting shot at.”