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Guarding supply lines and braving fire all in a day's work

18 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

The chain of bridges on the outskirts of this Iraqi city don't appear to be much.  But they are just as crucial to the success of the mission as bullets or chow. 

In fact, the bridges link the bulk of Coalition Forces in Baghdad with their ammunition and food.

"Our job here is to keep the supply lies to Baghdad safe," said 2nd Lt. Brandon T. McDaniel, a platoon commander with Company F, 2nd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment, serving with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq.  "The enemy has already tried to blow some of these bridges and it's our mission to make sure they can be rebuilt and guard the remaining ones from enemy attacks."

The battle-hardened Marines had all faced firefights and mortar attacks.  It was the unknown factors about which they were concerned.

"When we pulled in here, we had no idea our convoy would be attacked by mortars, but we've dealt with mortar attacks before, so we knew what to do," said Lance Cpl. Joseph M. Hatfield, 20, also a rifleman with the company.  The Miamisburg, Fla., Marine added with a smile, "It wasn't all bad though. We got some."

The Marines spotted enemy mortar positions in a field a few hundred yards away from their own position.  They repositioned their forces as the majority of the infantry company opened up on enemy forces attacking them.

"It was quite a sight to see, a whole company of Marines firing on them," McDaniel said.  "They were all on line just like at the rifle range and returned a high volume of fire at them."

Marine snipers, mortars, and a MK-19 grenade launcher were enough to convince the enemy to flee. 

"My platoon moved to our position before we found out if we killed them all, but if they're still alive, they won't ever mess with Marines again," McDaniel said.

Living with long days broken by quick moments of action was part of being an infantryman, Hatfield said.  The bridges aren't the main effort of Fallujah, but without them, Marines there couldn't have fought on.

"I think it's good that we're here," McDaniel added.  "If we want mail, chow and other supplies then these bridges have to be protected."

Marines sent out patrols while they maintained their defensive perimeter around the bridges.  The patrols kept Marines abreast of any changes in their area and search for enemy planning to damage the bridges.

"We found a cache of weapons in one of the houses here during a patrol," Hatfield said.  "There was an AK-47, ammunition and stuff like that.  They were planning on hitting us, just waiting for the right time.

"It's good that we found the weapons, because I'd rather see them in our hands than theirs," he added.