Marines find it hard to stand by while fellow battalion members are stuck in firefight
CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq — It’s a desperate feeling for a Marine not to be able to join the fight when members of his company are less than two miles away, perhaps fighting for their lives.
Marines from Company D, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, watched a firefight Thursday morning from inside Camp Baharia, standing on top of buildings and vehicles, knowing one of their platoons was involved.
The Marines watched as helicopters flew over the city of Fallujah, firing missiles that sent up big clouds, and listened as mortar rounds exploded and rifle fire sounded. About 25 of their peers were in combat, and there was nothing they could do.
“You’re here confined to camp, and the only way you’re going to get hit is by a lucky mortar round,” said Cpl. Joseph Lorek, 19, of Mentor, Ohio. “You know your friends are getting shot at, and you can’t do a damned thing from back here.”
Third platoon was just finishing its shift at about 7:30 a.m. when it was fired upon as it patrolled Route 1. Explosions and the sound of rifle fire echoed over the camp. Another platoon prepared to leave the base. Four Light Armored Vehicles were staged and ready to roll.
Marines stood on top of them and watched the fight in the distance over the wall that surrounds the base.
“We’re kind of anxious,” said Lance Cpl. Samuel Herzberg, 20, of Norman, Okla., as he stood atop his LAV-25 waiting to be sent into the battle. “You know everyone else is out there getting some [fire], and you don’t want to leave them there hanging.
“I’d just really like to get out there and help them out.”
The Marines back at the camp heard rumors that a helicopter was shot down and that members of their company had been wounded. No one knew anything for sure.
As the morning turned to afternoon, the sound of exploding mortars became more frequent. It was reminiscent of April, when fighting in Fallujah between the Marines and insurgents was intense.
Lorek said it was not like standing on the sideline of a football game, pleading to the coach to be sent in.
“Here, you can always put more players in,” said Lorek, whose platoon has the capability of firing TOW missiles. “It isn’t like a football game where you can only play 11 guys.
“There’s definitely use for us out there, especially us TOW gunners, because they say there are [insurgents] in buildings. We could just blow up the building and take out the guys in it.”
It turned out four Marines were injured, none seriously, according to company commander Capt. Ladd Shepard. He said at least seven insurgents were killed.
Shepard said more troops weren’t sent in because there were already adequate numbers in the fight, including helicopter and air support.
One of the Marines who was in the fight, Sgt. Jack Leuba of Accident, Md., said later that he knew how the Marines left back at the base felt.
“We’ve been in their shoes,” Leuba said. “It’s the worst feeling in world knowing you got friends out there fighting their hearts out and you’re stuck here sitting on a cot drinking a soda. You just want to go out there and do your job.
“You want to make sure they’re OK. You want to be there with them. Instead, you kind of feel like you’re letting them down.”