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Lejeune Marines perform in Fallujah

22 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

Eighteen-year-old Lance Cpl. Justin Tygart checked and rechecked his gear as the evening sun set here.

"The thing you have to watch out for here is complacency, it's what will kill you and your fellow Marines," said Tygart, from Swansboro, N.C. 

Marines of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment needed to be alert on this patrol.  The rural area has been quiet for a while, but they know that can change in an instant.  This is, after all, Fallujah.

"Our purpose on the patrol was to survey the area and watch for anyone trying to set up mortar positions or explosive devices," said Cpl. Travis J. Lowis, 24, a squad leader from Iron Mountain, Mich.  "We chose a position with good cover and tactically positioned our vehicles.  After everything was in place, listening posts were pushed out."

The LPs consisted of two- or three-man teams, watching the road in front of them and the surrounding area using night vision and thermal goggles.

"Some of our Marines noticed someone watching us pulling in," Lowis said.  "Later during the night we saw him approaching our position with a weapon in his hands."

Lowis added the Marines noticed him signaling others in a house behind him with a white light.

"Him signaling people and carrying a weapon let us know his intentions weren't good," he explained.  "We were ordered to take him out, and I pushed up to the LP with one of the sergeants and waited for him to appear again in our NVGs and then I took the shot."

The night sounds of barking dogs and the occasional bird were stopped as the crack of the shot rang through the air.  The Marines waited anxiously for some retaliation from the surrounding buildings, but none came.

"We waited for daylight and then searched the surrounding buildings.  Our interpreter said the man we killed was a known insurgent," Lowis said.  "The people in the houses said he was a 'bad guy.'"

After the houses were searched, the Marines returned to the company command post to await their next mission.

Lowis didn't let the single shot linger in his mind.  It's a mission - cut and dry.

"I have to make sure my guys stay safe," he said.

The all-night missions are routine for the Marines here.  Moving closer to Fallujah only increases the cycle.  For now, it's more operations and less rest.

Still, Marines know they have the training and camaraderie to stick together through missions lasting days on end.

"These guys are working with the Marines that they trained with, the guys they know.  That's the best part about keeping together as a platoon," said Sgt. James M. Bank, the platoon guide from Logan, Utah.  "The hardest part is hearing reports of the casualties we're taking inside the city.  Even though there is fear, our guys know they can keep pushing to get the mission done."