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3/25 roots out insurgents from hospital

8 May 2005 | Cpl. Ken Melton

On 8 May, Marines with Mobile Assault Platoon – 7, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment were attacked by insurgents hiding in a civilian hospital in Haditha. The hospital was used as a base of operations by the insurgents and they used patients as human shields. During the operation, the Marines suffered the loss of four fellow service members but still completed their mission, killing all but one insurgent. The day started slow for the Marines and Corpsmen with the MAP-7 as they prepared for an observation post mission when the call came in that another MAP was under fire at the hospital. “(They) were taking fire from the other side of the river near the hospital. The plan was to go behind the attackers and cut off their escape,” said Cpl. Jeff W. Schuller, a 24-year-old Monroeville, Ohio native and infantryman with MAP-7. “We moved into the market area downtown and were blocked off by a car and other rubble. So we began to turn around.” The operation was going as planned when the insurgents attacked using a suicide car bomb. “The tanks were out in front when we began to rotate (our Assault Amphibian Vehicles) like we had practiced so many times before,” said Lance Cpl. Justin S. Henderson, a 21-year-old Lexington, Texas native with MAP-7. “The streets were well lit and the hospital, which was on the right side of us, seemed quiet. Then, before we knew it, a white van came out of a darkened alleyway. It jumped a curb, slammed into a wall and ignited into flames.” An RPG immediately followed from the same alley as the vehicle attack on the Marines who were dismounted for security. Then a firefight began. “We were taking rounds from all sides,” explained Schuller, a 1999 graduate of Monroeville High School. “My gunner went down in the seat and couldn’t fire because of injuries from the blast. So he performed first-aid on himself and passed me rounds so I could continue to fight.” Another Marine, whose vehicle was damaged, quickly began aiding his wounded comrades. “I tried to move my vehicle into a better fighting position but it was hit by an RPG, and the handling on the vehicle was no good,” said Henderson, a 2000 Lexington High School graduate. “So I got out and began pulling my buddies out of harm’s way. Those who weren’t fighting were performing first aid on the fallen.” The Marines remained cool and vigilant under the intense fire. They staged the wounded behind a seven-ton truck and supported each other by returning fire when others were reloading. The quick reaction and organized tactics of the Marines forced the insurgents to retreat into the hospital. “We were all working on the same page,” Henderson said. “We acted like Marines are supposed to.” “After all the casualties were on the seven-ton, we grabbed as much of their gear as we could and took off back toward the dam.” On the way to the dam, they passed other Marines from MAP-7 who responded to their distress call. “When we arrived on the scene, we wondered how they survived at all,” said 23-year-old Rando N. Idiaquez, a Cleveland, Ohio native with MAP-7. “We saw a burning vehicle and some Marines helping move a casualty into an AAV (Assault Amphibian Vehicle). “I knew who it was. I felt useless because there was nothing I could do but watch,” said Idiaquez with tears in his eyes. As reinforcements arrived, the Marines entered the hospital and the surrounding buildings encountering insurgent hiding amongst the patients. They quickly eliminated the threat leaving more than a dozen insurgents’ dead in and around the hospital with no civilian causalities.