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LAPD lends a helping hand to Marines in Iraq

4 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

Marines in Iraq have a secret weapon when it comes to dealing with improved explosive devices.  It comes with a badge from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Ralph Morten knows just about all there is when it comes to bombs.  He's got the credentials.  Take for example 25 years as an LAPD detective and a post as a member of the city's special weapons and tactics team.  He's served a stint as a liaison in Israel for countering explosives.  He's even logged a few years wearing the chevrons of a Marine noncommissioned officer.  But he won't tell you he knows it all.  Instead, he'd say he's still learning.

"One of the hardest things to do is stay updated on enemy tactics," explained Morten, a civilian advisor to the 1st Marine Division. 

Morten travels from unit-to-unit across Iraq's Al Anbar Province.  His latest stop was with the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment assigned to the 1st Marine Division.  Here, he presented his latest findings - some of them only days old.

"I'm here with the 1st Marine Division to teach the Marines the information I've gathered on how to fight this threat," Morten said.  "Our enemy is changing his tactics every day.  We have to change with him if we want to win."

The class consisted of a slide show and video footage from past suicide bombers and IEDs.  Some were gathered since the Marines landed here less than two months ago.

"I go out on patrols with the explosive ordnance disposal Marines, to see what they're encountering so I can keep my class as current as possible," he said.

Morten's tour of the units here has lasted more than 40 days so far.  It's a mission that's seemingly more of a conviction to help Marines than it is an academic study into homemade bombs.  That's why LAPD Chief of Police William J. Bratton authorized Morten's visit.  Hopefully, his lessons save lives.

Morten explained that anti-Coalition fighters are bent on their cause and would stop at nothing, including taking his own life, to accomplish his mission.  With IEDs, he said, the attempts only become more desperate and more lethal to Marines and Iraqi civilians.

"When you defeat them at the IED game, they change tactics and often move to suicide bombing.  We have to beat them at their own game," Morten explained.  "We do this by being proactive, aggressive and not waiting for them.  The fight goes on 24/7 for them, we have to do the same thing."

Marines in the battalion were pleased with the presentation.

"He provided the latest up-to-date information derived from many spectrums all across the field," said Maj. Christopher G. Dixon, executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment from Bellefonte, Pa. "He brings it to a level so the information is usable to the Marines on the ground.  He reminded us to be flexible and not become stagnant."

Many younger Marines attending the class also felt the information would be useful to them in their daily fight against the threat of IEDs.

"He did it very well, it was a good presentation and very informative," said Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Dill, 20, from Pompton Lakes, N.J. 

Still, the assault man said he was hungry for more lessons.

"It was great to hear about the suicide bombers, but I'd like to know more about counter IED stuff," Dill added.  "There are always more IEDs out there."

Morten explained IEDs in Iraq present a danger for which Marines don't normally train.  But the gap he fills, he hoped, aids Marines in adapting to Iraq's challenges.

"The good thing about Marines is that they can quickly adapt and change their gears to be successful and accomplish their mission," he said.  "Hopefully I can help the Marines here by using the class to teach them the latest tactics of the enemy and encourage them to share the information with other units."