Dispatches: Friendly Fire
April 2003

by Jud McCrehin

I’ve been covering battery M, 3rd battalion, 11th Marine Regiment since the war on Iraq began. Mostly I’ve been staying in their artillery positions under guard but when I got the chance to go out on patrol with nine Marines last night I joined them. The mission was to make sure the battery convoy would be able to move to a new position later in the evening with no problems from the enemy.

The patrol was going just as the many patrols I’ve been on in the past. I really didn’t think we were going to find, see or do anything other than walk around in red dust-filled air. We started heading back toward the battery’s artillery position after being out for about ten minutes in one field when I heard many sounds that I had never heard before. I had always been on the other side when somebody fired a M-16 A2 rifle, but I had never been on the receiving end of the bullets. The sound is definitely something that I don’t want to hear ever again.

I looked around real fast and saw that the Marines I was with were hitting the deck so that is exactly what I did. Luckily the field we were in had some small irrigation trenches that I used to flatten out on my belly. My nose was almost hitting the ground except for the pieces of hay sticking in my cheeks that were holding my head just off the dirt. I stayed there thinking that this was not happening to me and questioning my Kevlar helmet and its effectiveness. I didn’t look around at all, just straight down in the dirt for a long time (at least it seemed like a long time to me).

The Marines called down the line to see if anybody was hurt with an occasional bullet flying over our bodies. I said that I was OK. Then after a few more bullets I heard the Marines from battery M say “stop shooting we are United States Marines from Mike Battery, 3 / 11.” They kept saying it over and over again. They realized that the people who were shooting at us were also Marines, but I was not so sure. To battery M’s credit they didn’t return a single round. I would hate to think what would have happened if they had returned fire. I stayed pressed to the ground hoping that nobody was going to shoot me in the back. I could have sworn I heard somebody walking around over us. I guess I have watched too many war movies.

Then I heard exactly what I did not want to hear. Somebody yelled “He has blood on his face.” Then the same Marine said “he has been hit,” referring to the Marine that was hit. I really started to worry then because it all seemed so real at that point.

Finally the people who were shooting at us, headquarters battery, 3rd battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, told us to put our hands up so I looked around and the Marines on the ground were doing just that, so I followed. I slowly stood up and watched as the shooters started walking toward us with their rifles pointed in our direction. They realized their mistake about halfway toward us and dropped their rifles so we all moved over to see what happened to the Lance Cpl. who was hit.

As it turns out the Lance Cpl who was hit is going to be all right. He was hit in the right shoulder just beside his bulletproof vest. The bullet went though his body and hit the vest on the backside. The corpsman came over and treated the Lance Cpl and carried him out on a stretcher to a humvee that was waiting to take him to the battalion aid station. He was moved to Kuwait and is expected to make a full recovery.


© By Jud McCrehin
Senior photographer
Marine Corps Times


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