A Dark Street Explodes

IED Causes Minor Injuries This Time As
Marines Adapt To A Deadly Tactic

May 31, 2006
By JESSE HAMILTON, Courant Staff Writer

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- This night is darker than
most. Gray-brown clouds steam in to blot out the
moon, holding the heat close to the ground, boiling
the city.

It's late, and the Marines are doing curfew checks,
rolling through black alleys in Humvees, sometimes
with headlights, sometimes without.

Civilian cars are to be off the streets by 9. People
by 10.

The Marines have seen action in most
neighborhoods, but some are worse than others,
like this one. They check out Jolan Park, a decrepit
amusement park. They skim through the streets of
the Pizza Slice, a rough triangle of city that
includes the Martyrs' Cemetery. Iraqi police
trucks, red and blue lights spinning, have been
shadowing the Humvee convoy for a while - not a
comfort to the guys on the patrol, who believe the
police work with the insurgents.

The Marines turn north on the street they call
Henry. It's quiet. It's been quiet for a couple of
days for Charlie Company, since the grenade attack
that sent a couple of Marines to the hospital at
Camp Fallujah with minor shrapnel wounds.

The street is empty. The Humvees kick up dust,
blurring their dark silhouettes as they muscle
through tight spots

Then, the street explodes.

A yellow-orange blast turns night into day for less
than a second. The sound isn't Hollywood, a
rumbling thunder explosion. It's more like a metal
garbage can smashed with a baseball bat, times
10,000.

Marines call out to each other, asking if everybody
is OK, passing along the conclusion that this was a
roadside bomb.

At the same time, the convoy is accelerating,
getting out of the area, avoiding whatever ambush
might be planned. The four trucks race back toward
their downtown base.

The fourth Humvee was hit, its rear end absorbing
much of the bomb's shrapnel, flattening both rear
tires and punching holes through aluminum parts of
the body. It's limping now, rolling slow on its
wrecked tires.

All make it through the gate and back to the base,
where Marines pour out of the building to see what
happened. Several flashlight beams play over the
damaged vehicle and crew. The Marine who was in
the gun turret - Lance Cpl. Daniel Chamberlain
from New Jersey, the only one directly exposed to
the explosion - was hit by shrapnel on the part of
his back exposed by the armhole of his body
armor. It's nothing serious, nor is his concussion.

This is the way of things here. Improvised
explosive devices, or IEDs, have claimed more U.S.
troops than anything else. It's the reason for the
armor on the Humvees, which protected the
Marines inside Chamberlain's truck. And as U.S.
forces strive to adapt and counter the simple but
deadly tactic, the insurgency adapts, too.

This bomb wasn't a large one. It's more difficult for
insurgents to conceal a large bomb in a city, with
its traffic and its asphalt to dig through. And the
Marines start to get an IED sense. They travel the
same streets so often, they can sometimes notice a
mound of rubble out of place or a trash heap too
high.

The Marines know they'll be hit, but the company
commander, Maj. Vaughn Ward, says, "You can't
not go out." If the Marines stay inside to avoid
trouble, "you're letting the enemy dictate what you
can and can't do."
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