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    3/3 Marines, Sailors Repel Christmas Eve Ambush

    KUNAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

    01.19.2005

    Courtesy Story

    DVIDS Hub

    Story by: Cpl. Rich Mattingly

    KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Marines and Sailors of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment had an unforgettable holiday, making contact with enemy forces in the Korangal Valley Dec. 23 and again on Christmas Eve.

    Coming immediately after a mission where India Co. had been pursuing Anti-Coalition Forces in the valley, the Marines and Sailors of "America's Battalion" came under small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire in the middle of the night.

    "It started during a watch change-over, so most of us were awake," said Navy Seaman Jonathon Seaux, hospital corpsman with India Co., from Abbeville, La. "I checked on my Marines to make sure everyone was okay, and then I just did the first thing I thought to do: pick up the squad automatic weapon next to me and start
    firing back."

    Seaux didn't even notice the 7.62mm round that lodged in his body armor just above his heart until the next day.

    "I guess I'm just lucky," said Seaux, proudly displaying the SAPI plate with a hole from which he had extracted a round. "Better me than one of my Marines," added the corpsman, who helped bandage another Marine's bullet wound the very next day.

    After taking fire for a solid 20 minutes, the Marines sent the enemy packing for the night with deadly accurate 60mm high-explosive mortar bursts.

    With one squad running low on ammunition after the firefight, another squad made a night movement of over 1,200 meters to make sure their fellow Marines had back-up.

    "They didn't complain and they didn't stop," said 2nd Lt. Pete Ankney, platoon commander with India Co., from Colstrip, Mont. "They knew they had a job to do."

    On Christmas Eve, India Co.'s Combined Anti-Armor Team went to retrieve the Marines who were maintaining an over watch position in the Korangal Valley. After extracting the Marines, they got their own taste of action in an ambush by heavily-armed forces
    using fortified fighting positions.

    "We heard muted gunfire, RPG's exploding and the sound of rounds hitting the trucks," said Marine Cpl. Josh Burgbacher, India Co. machine gunner from Lima, Ohio.

    "That lasted for maybe half of a second and then you could hear every single gun in the convoy open up. Everyone just reacted with their training."

    Other Marines said Burgbacher, a machine gunner, calmly helped fix a jammed MK19 automatic grenade launcher while rounds were impacting around him.

    The ambush was a well-planned attack, according to CAAT platoon commander, 1st Lt. Jonathan Frangakis. The Belle Meade, N.J., native said the enemy had a pile of rocks marking the start of the kill zone.

    "We thought at first it was an improvised explosive device, but they knew how many vehicles we had, and as soon as the first vehicle got near the marker, they opened up on us," Frangakis said.

    For several Marines, it was their second firefight within just a few hours.

    "I heard the rounds impacting," said Lance Cpl. Daniel Alfieri, India Co. machine gunner from Syracuse, N.Y. "I just thought "here we go again"," he said as he cleaned his weapon after returning to Asadabad with his squad.

    The Marines assaulted through to the village where much of the fire had originated. They confirmed two enemy killed and captured eight men they believe were involved in the attack. Seven of the eight later came up positive on a test for gunpowder and explosive residue.

    Another close call to complement Seaux's included the shot-through front site post of Sgt. Jason Burch's M16 A4 rifle. Burch, a Deerlodge, Mont., native said he didn't even notice the damage to his rifle as he continued to return fire on the enemy's position.

    It wasn't the start to the holidays the Marines maybe had hoped for, but according to what one Marine had seen on the popular television show "Mail Call" hosted by famous Marine R. Lee Ermey, it seemed to be tradition.

    "Before it started, we had just been talking about how I had seen that 3/3 got attacked on Christmas Eve in Vietnam and repelled an enemy assault," said Lance Cpl. Ryan Archambeau, assaultman and MK19 gunner with India Co., from Waynesboro, Pa.

    As dawn broke on Christmas morning, the Marines and Sailors joined together in giving thanks for their good fortune that no one was seriously injured in the firefights. After holiday services, the Marines returned to Asadabad where, to the man, the Marines broke out cleaning gear and busted the carbon off of their weapons before heading to Christmas chow.

    "There isn't anyone I"d rather have spent the holidays with," said Archambeau. "This was the best Christmas I've ever had."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 01.19.2005
    Date Posted: 01.19.2005 16:45
    Story ID: 885
    Location: KUNAR PROVINCE, AF 

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