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Sunday, November 07, 2004

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Insurgency: G.I.'s Open Attack to Take Falluja From Iraq Rebels

G.I.'s Open Attack to Take Falluja From Iraq Rebels

Published: November 8, 2004

ALLUJA, Iraq, Monday, Nov. 8 - Explosions and heavy gunfire thundered across Falluja on Sunday night and early Monday as American troops seized control of two strategic bridges, a hospital and other objectives in the first stage of a long-expected invasion of the city, considered the center of the Iraqi insurgency.

Hours earlier, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, faced with an expanding outbreak of insurgent violence across the country, formally proclaimed a state of emergency for 60 days across most of Iraq. The proclamation gave him broad powers that allow him to impose curfews, order house-to-house searches and detain suspected criminals and insurgents.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 American soldiers and marines backed by newly trained Iraqi forces were besieging Falluja for what American commanders said was likely to be a brutal, block-by-block battle to retake control and capture, kill or disperse an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 hard-core insurgent fighters.

The battle for Falluja, the most important since the American invasion of Iraq 19 months ago, was joined. Troops were on the move by 9 p.m. Sunday to the west and south of Falluja, just across the Euphrates River. After two hours of steady pounding by American guns, tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and AC-130 gunships, at least one objective - a hospital less than a mile west of downtown Falluja - was secured by American Special Forces and the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion. Hours later, the first of several thousand marines in tanks, humvees and armored personnel carriers were moving from their base to a point north of Falluja.

Tracer fire lighted up the sky as the operation began, helicopters crisscrossed the battlefield, and at least one American vehicle was fired upon with a rocket-propelled grenade as American and Iraqi forces converged on the hospital, called Falluja General Hospital. Shortly before midnight, American forces were exchanging gunfire across a bridge near the hospital with several insurgent positions on the other side.

"There has been extensive gunfire going across the river," said the American commander of the Special Forces operation at the hospital. "Bradleys have been shooting over to the east of us, and there has been extensive machine gun fire to the southwest of us," the commander said.

As that firefight raged, extensive airstrikes and artillery fire pummeled the northern and western sections of Falluja, with great blossoms of flame brightening and then fading with each boom of the heavy cannons on the AC-130 gunships, circling over the city like birds of prey.

A huge fire burned in the midst of the city. The streets themselves, as seen through the powerful night-vision optical equipment aboard one Bradley fighting vehicle southeast of Falluja, appeared eerily deserted.

By midnight, the bridge near the hospital and a second strategic bridge, slightly to the south, had been secured.

In Washington, Pentagon officials said Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were monitoring the preparations and updated combat reports.

Most civilians in Falluja, a city of about 250,000 people 35 miles west of Baghdad, were believed to have left by the time the invasion began.

It was the second time in six months that a battle had raged in Falluja. In April, American troops were closing in on the city center when popular uprisings broke out in cities across Iraq. The anger was fed by mostly unconfirmed reports of large civilian casualties, forcing the Americans to withdraw.

American commanders regarded the reports as inflated, but it was impossible to determine independently how many civilians had been killed. The hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casualties.

"It's a center of propaganda," a senior American officer said Sunday.

This time around, the American military intends to fight its own information war, countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents' most potent weapons. The military hopes that if it can hold its own in that war, then the armed invasion - involving as many as 25,000 American and Iraqi troops, all told - will smash what has become the largest remaining insurgent stronghold in Iraq.

And with only three months to go until the country's first democratic elections, American and Iraqi officials are grasping for any tool at their command to bring the insurgency under control.

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Insurgency: G.I.'s Open Attack to Take Falluja From Iraq Rebels, West County - County officer tells Iraq story

County officer tells Iraq story

EDITOR'S NOTE: Twenty county workers have been called into active duty since the war in iraq began. County police Cpl. Steve Quick of Severn was one of them. Here is his account of what he experienced as printed in an employee newsletter. ---

I left Anne Arundel County on Jan. 19, 2003, to join the 309th RAOC, a 5th Corps command and control element, in Weisbaden, Germany.

On Feb. 20, I flew to Kuwait where we joined 5th Corps at Camp Virginia. The next month was a flurry of activity planning, drawing equipment, conducting rehearsals and preparing for the assault into Iraq.

On March 21, we departed Camp Virginia for Iraq. We crossed the border early in the morning of March 22 just behind the combat units of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Later, during the battles of Najaf, Karbala, Al Hilla and the Baghdad International Airport we were attached to the 101 Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Shortly after the regime collapse on Good Friday, we moved to Balad Airfield northeast of Baghdad. We were responsible for the security of the installation and I spent a significant amount of time establishing the perimeter, standing up and training a guard force.

This was very important - security of the airfield had to be high before the Air Force could allow its aircraft to land. The first C-130 coming in was a sight I will not forget. C5A Galaxy and C-17 aircraft now routinely land at this installation.

I also spent a significant amount of time

excitement, we were shot at frequently while conducting the operations.

On May 21, we were ordered to Hibaniyah Airfield, which is about 6 miles west of Fallujah. We again were the Base Operations Center tasked with securing the airfield. Once again the perimeter and guard posts were established.

On July 5 we were ordered to move yet again, attached to the 4th Infantry Division with the 10th Cavalry Regiment. We moved to a small installation near the Iranian border.

Fresh milk had to wait

I also worked closely with the Balad Ruz Police Department. They were an amazing group of officers.

I dropped in unannounced on my first visit. They had highly shined shoes, sharp creases in their uniforms and better haircuts than some of our guys.

That first impression indicated that they were dedicated professionals. They told me of a big problem that they had and asked me to help. The problem was that they were experiencing attacks on Police Headquarters about three times a week.

The 125-man department had only two rifles and three handguns to defend themselves with - at $87 per month for a patrolman. They had turned all of their weapons in to our combat forces during the early days of the war.

A week later I was able to deliver 150 AK47 rifles and about 10,000 rounds of ammunition. The next morning, 125 police officers were out on the main street in the market armed with the new rifles. They never were attacked again.

I credit their actions for the fact that our installation was never attacked after they were armed. They proved to be a dedicated group of professional, disciplined and well-trained police officers.

They are also good friends who I trusted with my life.

What was it like?

The weather was hot and there was a lot of dust. To go outside in a major sandstorm was a life-threatening event.

The first 10 days of August it got up to 140 degrees and hotter. We were short on sleep and we did our laundry by hand in a bucket. Showers were a luxury.

Fresh milk had to wait until I got home. Cold water was a luxury, and oh so good. We worked through it all.

In December and January, it rained quite a bit and there was a lot of fog. The temperature got down to about 38 degrees at night.

Still, we conducted our convoy escorts and we froze. Being 38 degrees and wet at 60 mph in an open vehicle isn't something I would recommend.

While I was gone..., West County - County officer tells Iraq story

- "Serving God and Supporting Our Troops"

Because of You, I'm Free
"Dedicated to the military and brave soldiers who gave their life for this country"
By: Norma E. Wright, Copyright 2004,,

Each time I see a waving flag, my eyes see so much more,
The ones who died to save us from an evil at our door.

The Army and the Navy, the Air Force and Marines,
Have paid the price so I am free to live and see my dreams.

The Army Reserve and Coast Guard, always at the country's call,
To serve, protect and help us as they daily give their all.

And though this country still is young; we're strong and we have power,
Because of those who sacrifice, who'll go at any hour.

I call you friend, my soldier, for someone who'd give their life,
Is more than just a friend to me, for you were there to fight.

And fight you have for freedom and the rights we hold so dear ,
You fought so we can live in peace and not live life in fear.

I know there's nothing I can do that can and will repay,
The debt of gratitude I owe when I woke up today.

For when I leave my home today, I know that I can be,
And speak and go where I may want, and that's because I'm free.

This country is so blessed to have the soldier brave and true,
So I salute you now my friend; my hat is off to you.

Because of you I have a choice of where I go to work,
Or where I live or go to school or where I go to church.

I have the right to speak my mind and freedom of the press,
The right to have a weapon or to start a street protest.

But rights and freedoms would not be at our foundation's core,
If you'd not fought the battles and the long and bloody wars.

For those who don't believe in war or going out to fight,
Are those who cannot understand the reasons we have rights.

And those who think that war's a crime and want to live in peace,
Are blinded by the devil's lies, for war has made us free.

We're free today because of you; you've suffered, bled and died,
Not one has ever died in vain for God is on our side.

To thank you seems so incomplete for words cannot contain,
The gratitude that's in my heart for wounded limbs and pain.

The families that you leave at home, the friends you leave behind,
Are proud of you and thankful for the sacrifice of time.

No matter where you go or fight, where you may live or serve,
Please know that there are those at home who mean these grateful words.

Because of you this country lives in freedom, peace and wealth,
And I don't take for granted every battle war has dealt.

Though grateful words are not enough and they can never be,
I'll say what's truly on my heart - because of you, I'm free.

- "Serving God and Supporting Our Troops"

The Bryan-College Station Eagle > A&M News

Soldier’s fiancee takes recovery a day at a time


Eagle Staff Writer

Jayme Peters saw her fiance, Joseph Bozik, crack a smile last week for the first time since he almost lost his life while serving in Iraq.

The smile framed two plastic tubes that emerged from his mouth, and Peters said the small gesture meant the world to her and Bozik’s family.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” Peters said Thursday in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “He saw his mom and smiled. It took all the energy in his body to smile.”

Bozik, a 27-year-old Army sergeant from North Carolina, was severely wounded in Baghdad on Oct. 27 when the Humvee in which he was traveling struck a bomb. He lost his right arm and both legs as a result of his injuries and is being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Peters, Bozik’s mother, Gail, and his two brothers have remained at his side through the initial stages of his recovery.

“It was sad to see him in the condition he was in,” said Peters, a 24-year-old Texas A&M University senior. “You remember how active he was and how he was full of life. I was happy and sad at the same time.”

Because he is under heavy sedation, contact with Bozik has been limited, Peters said. When he is awake, he communicates through blinks. Doctors ask Bozik to blink twice if he’s in pain.

“Most often, he blinks twice,” Peters said. “I don’t think he knows exactly what’s going on.”

But she’s quick to point out that all hope is not lost. Peters’ voice perks up when she begins to talk about the future and all the “opportunities” that still lie ahead for her fiance.

“He looks better every day,” she said.

Road to recovery

Bozik’s path to simply getting out of the hospital will be long and tedious, Peters said. She estimates it will be six months to a year before Bozik is able to leave the medical center.

For now, Peters and Bozik’s family are relishing the small steps toward recovery he makes each day. His loved ones take solace in a smile, his darting eyes checking out the surroundings and his struggle to sit up.

Each day brings another surgery. Mostly they’re to clean his wounds to prevent infection or to repair one of his many broken bones.

The surgeries also are preparing Bozik to be fitted for prosthetic limbs.

All that remains of Bozik’s right leg is his thigh. Peters said doctors plan to take part of the shinbone from his left leg and use it to lengthen his right leg — the longer the limb, the better the prosthetic that can be used.

Bozik’s right arm was amputated around the middle of his forearm.

The only limb left intact, his left arm, didn’t come out of the explosion unscathed. His left hand was broken in several places. More surgeries, including the insertion of metal plates, will be required to mend those injuries.

But Peters said not a day goes by that they don’t see an improvement in Bozik’s condition.

On Thursday, Peters said, doctors were going to try taking Bozik off a respirator because he was breathing on his own for the most part.

“Every day we see a difference,” she said. “Each day we get to see the next step in his recovery.”

The reconnection

Peters arrived in Washington, D.C., two Fridays ago but had to wait until about 10 p.m. the following Monday before she and Bozik’s family finally were able to see him.

His return to U.S. soil was delayed when doctors in Germany discovered fluid in his lungs. After he was finally stable enough to fly, Peters said, doctors at Walter Reed had to perform numerous tests on Bozik to get a better idea of what kind of medical attention he needed.

When Peters finally was allowed to visit Bozik, he was in such a fragile state that she had a hard time finding places where she could touch her fiance.

“The hardest part is not being able to hug him,” she said. “That was the first thing I wanted to do when I first saw him.”

Because of the extent of his injuries — which include dozens of broken bones — she was able to touch him only on his chest and head. But that didn’t spoil the sweetness of the moment.

Peters said she ran her fingers through his hair — something he always enjoyed when they spent time together — and talked to him. She told him stories about current events, including President Bush’s successful re-election bid, and talked about the first time they met.

Mostly, she said, it’s about letting him know she is there by his side.

“I think it’s good to talk to him,” she said. “I think he can hear me. And sometimes I just don’t say anything at all. I’m just there with him.”

Widespread support

Bozik’s story has spread from coast to coast. When “Joseph Bozik” is typed into a Google Internet search, the first three Web pages are filled with links to stories about his situation and information on how to help.

The generosity, Peters said, has overwhelmed her and Bozik’s family.

“It has been so important,” she said. “We couldn’t be more thankful.”

One group Peters said that has been especially helpful is California-based Soldiers’ Angels.

The nonprofit group, which is funded through donations, has helped with expenses and transportation while Peters and Bozik’s family have been in Washington, D.C. They routinely send representatives to visit her and the Boziks, Peters said, and have selflessly offered a sympathetic ear whenever needed.

“It’s good to know there are good people out there who care,” she said.

A trust fund has been set up at a bank in North Carolina, and donations continue to come to a fund at First American Bank in the Bryan-College Station area. Both funds will help Peters and the Bozik family pay for expenses associated with the soldier’s recovery.

Peters also said people have sent many cards and letters of support to a private mailbox address for Bozik in Bryan.

“It means a lot to us that there are so many people who care,” she said.

A new beginning

Even though Bozik is hooked up to a ventilator and other medical devices, Peters said she already is looking forward to his returning to an active lifestyle when he gets out of the hospital.

Before being wounded, Bozik enjoyed playing golf and other sports, Peters said. She has no doubt he’ll want to continue being active, despite losing three limbs.

“His life isn’t over,” she said. “He’ll just have to alter [how he participates in activities], but he can still enjoy them.”

The medical staff at Walter Reed already has started briefing Peters and the Bozik family on the types of prosthetic limbs he could use. Some of them are interchangeable to suit his needs, whether he’s walking, running or swinging a golf club.

Peters and the Boziks are staying on the medical center grounds and have met several amputees.

“They are carrying on with their lives,” Peters said. “They don’t look like they’re missing out on life.”

In fact, she said, it’s only a matter of time before Bozik joins their ranks once he is fitted with prosthetic limbs.

“He’s not one to sit around and let life pass,” she said. “In fact, I think we’ll have a hard time keeping up with him.”

• Greg Okuhara’s e-mail address is

The Bryan-College Station Eagle > A&M News

US Marines of the 1st Division

US Marines of the 1st Division listen to a briefing at a base outside Fallujah, Iraq .Sunday Nov. 7 , 2004. Facing a major assault in Fallujah, insurgents struck back with coordinated attacks on police installations using suicide car bombs, mortars and rocket attacks, killing more than 50 people and wounding more than 60, including nearly two dozen Americans. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) Yahoo! News - World Photos - AP

US Marines of the 1st Division

US Marines of the 1st Division

US Marines of the 1st Division listen to a briefing at a base outside Fallujah, Iraq ,Sunday Nov. 7 , 2004. Facing a major assault in Fallujah, insurgents struck back with coordinated attacks on police installations using suicide car bombs, mortars and rocket attacks, killing more than 50 people and wounding more than 60, including nearly two dozen Americans. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) Yahoo! News - World Photos - AP
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