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Thursday, November 18

Marines find enemy GPS device

By Gordon Trowbridge | The Army Times

FALLUJAH, Iraq - The military manuals call it ``dynamic entry.''

But the Marines of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, aren't interested in euphemisms.

``When you go in,'' said Capt. Lee Johnson, Alpha's commander, ``you go in hard.''

After 11 days of exhausting house-to-house fighting in a city overrun by anti-U.S. insurgents, Alpha Company rested on the night of Nov. 18, preparing for its first company-sized assault since entering the city.

Johnson and his staff were readying to attack a block of buildings they believed was in the middle of a ``ratline'' being used by insurgents to move from east to west across the company's sector of the city.

Their plan reflected hard-won lessons: Mortar fire is vital preparation. Tactical intelligence is crucial. Use armor wherever possible. And for the rifle teams tapped to clear houses, never use a soft tap when the hard knock of a grenade or an antitank rocket will do.

After a fierce firefight between the company's 3rd Platoon and more than 30 rebels, one Marine discovered a gold mine: a detailed layout of the enemy's defenses. A handheld Global Positioning System receiver apparently left by rebels fleeing the Marines' assault pinpointed more than a dozen locations in the company's sector of northeastern Fallujah.

Over the next week, Johnson sent his Hawaii-based Marines on a systematic assault on each of the GPS locations. Each paid off. Several included weapons caches, one so large that when it was detonated it reduced the houses around it to rubble.

At another location, Marines recovered fuses, timers, wiring and explosives ideal for making the improvised killing devices feared by every coalition service member in Iraq.

Despite the U.S. military's massive firepower, subduing Fallujah has involved sending young men to tackle the dangerous mission of breaking down doors and staring into darkened rooms, desperately hoping not to be met by a close-range AK-47 blast.

``Every one of us at one point or another has been the one kicking in that door - and finding whatever's on the other side,'' said Cpl. Nicholas Jones.