About U.S. Marines seek to 'own the night' in battle for control of dangerous
|September 2nd, 2006||#1|
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U.S. Marines seek to 'own the night' in battle for control of dangerous info
Byline: ANTONIO CASTANEDA
Date: 01 September 2006
RAMADI, Iraq - Their first silhouettes appear at dusk, moving briskly under
dim moonlight or the rare street lamp. Sometimes the crunch of their boots
on trash-strewn streets will stir families dozing on lawns in the cool of
It's another night patrol by U.S. Marines in one of Iraq's most dangerous
When night falls on Ramadi, hundreds of Marines confined to bases during the
day return to the streets. Daytime foot patrols are limited because of the
threat of skilled snipers or roadside bombs, but the cover of darkness _ and
night vision technology _ allows Marines to fan out into contested
"We don't like going out during the day. They fight a lot more in the day,"
explained Cpl. Anthony Rusciano, 22, of New York, as he prepared for another
In the quieter western side of Ramadi, 110 kilometers (70 miles) west of
Baghdad, most night patrols are geared toward holding conversations with
residents to build trust, acquire tips and erode the daytime influence of
insurgents. But in other parts, such as the abandoned span of crumbling
buildings that make up the city center, Marines are simply trying to keep
insurgents from staging ambushes or planting more bombs.
The night also makes the summertime heat more bearable for the Marines, who
lug 36 kilograms (80 pounds) of weapons and equipment on their patrols.
U.S. troops across Iraq use a common refrain _ "We own the night" _ to
describe their edge over insurgents in darkness. But danger still lurks at
night for the Marines who traverse along unfamiliar streets.
Marines sprint through lighted intersections and warily examine suspicious
mounds of trash that could contain bombs. Sometimes they trip over miniature
canals in the road that serve as sewers, stirring putrid fumes into the air.
Roving packs of wild dogs usually announce the Marines' presence and trail
Residents are often caught between roving insurgents in the day and the
patrolling Marines at night. Though U.S. forces have recently pushed farther
into the city, tens of thousands of people still live in neighborhoods that
rarely see Americans.
"All the people in Ramadi are scared _ scared of the mujahedeen, scared of
the Americans," said one man to visiting Marines. Several deep gouges marked
his living room wall, which he blamed on an errant U.S. grenade that tore
through his home but didn't harm his six children and wife.
Many residents spoke of their desperate situations, complaining about the
three to four hours of available electricity per day, the rising price of
gas and water shortages.
"We need our lives back. For us, it's OK, we can deal. But our children
cannot do this," said one man in his mid-30s as his young son ran around the
home wearing an oversized helmet borrowed from a Marine. The man asked not
to be named for fear of insurgent reprisal.
Some residents, long accustomed to Marines dropping by at odd hours,
casually try to continue what they were doing. On one recent patrol, a
family watched televised reports on a car bombing in Baghdad earlier that
day. In a neighboring home, a heavyset man encouraged the Marines to watch
the World Cup in his bedroom _ in part so that he, too, could catch the last
minutes of a match.
Most homes in Ramadi are surrounded by courtyard walls that provide ample
cover for possible gunmen. Though a curfew reduces the number of pedestrians
for Marines to monitor, they believe insurgents are always watching.
"I'm sure they were watching our movement tonight. ... I'd say within 15-20
minutes everyone in the neighborhood knew we were over here. It doesn't take
long for word to get around," said Cpl. Brad Bruce, 23, of LaPorte, Indiana,
shortly after a three-hour patrol.
Marines communicate through whispers or hand signals passed down from patrol
leaders. Disciplined squads can limit their noises down to the sounds of
water swishing in containers, the soft beep of their radios and the
occasional Marine tripping on uneven roads.
Some homes in the city hardly seem affected by the war. Marines said on one
recent patrol they found a college student reading Shakespeare's "Macbeth" _
in English _ as another man instant-messaged a friend on the Internet. A
third young man was smoking a hookah, or a traditional Arab water pipe.
"Sometimes I wonder what I'd feel like if a couple guys banged on my door at
night and stayed for a couple days," said 1st Lt. Daniel Greene, 25, of
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