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Marines return to Kharma battlefield, find town quiet

23 Apr 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

Marines walked the grounds April 23, where two weeks before, they killed 100 enemy.

Marines from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment moved through Al Kharma, the same small Iraqi city where they met the enemy a week ago with devastating firepower.  This time, though, the Marines were greeted with little more than a heavy task of removing and destroying improvised explosive devices.

"We're serving as a base of fire... looking for bad guys," said Lance Cpl. Thomas J. O'Leary, of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.  "But we just haven't shot any rounds," added O'Leary, with disappointment, a squad leader for 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Company K.

O'Leary, from Salt Lake City, said he and his squad believed the battle two weeks ago convinced the enemy to leave the fortified town.

"You can definitely tell we were here before," O'Leary said.

But coming back, Marines found that the enemy forces they once faced were gone. 

"'Intel' said that when we left Karmah, the rest of the insurgents left the city too," said Lance Cpl. Keegan C. Nace, O'Leary's assistant squad leader. "They just packed up and left because they thought they would get blocked off like Fallujah."

"We're disappointed that we're not getting any action," said Lance Cpl. Bradley W. Havenar, an infantryman from Midwest, Okla. "We had a good fight last time we came, but it seems they got scared and left."

Combat engineers discovered improvised explosive devices just inches below the dirt that were later cleared for vehicle checkpoints.  Explosive ordnance disposal teams were called in.

"We found some IEDs and they're all made out of artillery shells," said Cpl. Garett D. Bunkelman, of Chippewa-Falls, Wisconsin, about the 155 mm rounds. "The EOD guys will detonate them later."

Despite the uneventful operation, the grunts carried on routine duties such as identification checks of civilians at vehicle checkpoints and searching for weapons.

"Sometimes these guys walk through our VCPs with false documents that just look fake," O'Leary said.

The day, although relatively quiet for the company, was successful for the battalion.  Marines from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, discovered and destroyed 62 IEDs along key routes into Al Kharma.  The find was the largest yet for Marines since they deployed to Iraq earlier this year.