CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- It was 7 p.m. and the Camden, N.Y., native was in his barracks room, located inside the Abu Ghraib prison getting a haircut when the attack began.
Lance Cpl. Chuck W. Mikitin, an infantryman with K Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, put his training into action. Donning his gear, Mikitin and the rest of 1st squad made their way to their assembly position as rehearsed in previous Quick Reaction Force drills; however, this was not a drill.
“I was kind of surprised when I heard the attack begin because we haven’t received any large attacks from insurgent groups,” explained the 2001 Camden Central High School graduate. “The locals have been really friendly and I didn’t expect to have such a large attack.”
He and his fellow Marines responded even quicker than rehearsed because there was another squad, 3rd Squad, from their company outside the prison walls. “This kind of thing is what we have been training for, and we finally had a chance to put our training to use,” Mikitin explained
As his squad raced to their positions, the Marines from Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment in the guard towers returned fire with M-2 .50 caliber heavy and M-240G medium machineguns as insurgents used RPGs, machineguns, suicide car bombers and grenades in an attempt to breach the walls.
The squad’s mission was to coordinate with the Marines outside the prison to neutralize the enemy. To do this Mikitin’s squad had to take the fight to the enemy by leaving the prison compound.
Mikitin and his squad moved out quickly and secured one key enemy position: a large apartment building complex near the prison. As they moved into position to secure the apartments, close air support provided suppressive fire on insurgent positions.
As the enemy attack began to break, a suicide car bomb exploded near the apartment buildings producing an enormous fireball followed seconds later by a ground shaking explosion.
“We were sitting there under cover and we saw the fire about 30 feet above the apartment buildings and then heard the explosion, thinking it was a mortar,” Mikitin said.
The bomb had gone off between two armored humvees from Weapons Company that had responded to the attack.
Around the prison compound sporadic firefights continued to breakout while Mikitin and his Marines cleared the local marketplace of insurgents. The Marines effectively repelled the attack and approximately an hour after it began, Mikitin and his squad returned to their barracks.
The quick reaction and the superb training of Company K and Weapons Company produced the successful defense of Abu Ghraib. These Marines will continue their fight in the Global War on Terrorism as they strive to provide a stable and secure country for the people of Iraq.