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Constant movement, contact for Marines in Fallujah

13 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi

The afternoons bring the heat here in this Iraqi city. When the Marines have a chance, they take off their boots and socks to air out their feet. The flies come out and latch themselves to the Marines - feeding on their filthy sweaty feet.

Cpl. Matthew Perkins, a scout sniper attached to Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment said with a chuckle, "My boots feel like a jar of Vaseline has been poured down them."

There's hardly been a moment of rest for the 1st Marine Division units surrounding Fallujah.  Marines rushed the city, systematically isolating and rooting out terrorists holed up inside until a unilateral suspension of offensive operations was called days ago. 

Still, the blistering pace grinds on.

"These guys are on the move nonstop everyday," said Capt. Donald Maraska, forward air controller for the company. "For instance... we did a counter-ambush tactic, which became an attack, and then rolled over to a (security and stabilization operation) all within a five hour period - that's amazing."

A rocket-propelled grenade wounded Maraska in the leg April 7 during a firefight. He continued to fight during the entire ordeal.  Only after a short lull, did he get medical attention. He quickly returned back to the fight.

"I just don't want to let these guys down," he said.

That attitude is carried through the ranks.  Marines perform deeds considered heroic by some standards, crazy by others.

"I have a god complex when I'm running through houses," explained Lance Cpl. Phillip Dennis, an infantryman with Company A's Headquarters Platoon. "It's the only way you can make it through the house. It's not until after you clear a house, by killing the enemy, you realize, 'Wow I could've died in there.'"

Still, not much is slowing down these Marines.  They've suffered their share of fellow Marines killed and wounded.  They've blasted away at an enemy determined to fight until death.  For the most part, however, they take it all in stride.

"My platoon sergeant put it all into words for me," said 2nd Lt. Brian P. Huysman, 3rd Platoon's commander. "The Marines are quiet professionals, they don't brag about what they do - they set goals and accomplish them. That's what makes a good Marine - you know what has to get done."

"Alpha Company has a personality and sense of humor about them that keeps them sane and fully effective for the fight," Maraska said. 

Maraska knows enough about Marines in combat and what it takes to keep them effective under fire.  He first enlisted in 1989 and served four years with a battalion reconnaissance team in Operation Desert Storm and a tour in Somalia.  He's back under fire again, this time as an officer.

"You can see first hand why the Marine Corps has the mystique it does out here," Huysman said. "These guys go through gunfights and are still able to sit around, joke and play cards. They're still the same person."

These Marines know they're up to the fight here.  They only wonder about the enemy.

"They're probably across the street thinking the same thing we are, 'When is the other side going to give up?' That's not going to be us," Huysman said.