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Publication: THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS PubDate: 6/24/2004 Head: Unit battles grenade attacks Once rare, they

are now common on patrols through neighborhood Byline: ED TIMMS Credit: Staff Writer Section: NEWS Zone: DALLAS Edition: SECOND Page Number: 15A Word Count: 873 Dateline: BAGHDAD, Iraq Art: PHOTO(S): (ED TIMMS/Staff) Cpl. Alan Gonzalez, 21, a medic from El Paso, treats an Iraqi civilian injured by shrapnel in a grenade attack. Two U.S. soldiers and five others also were injured Wednesday. BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. soldiers continue to tangle with Iraqi insurgents throughout Iraq, but its not always the same fight. One unit may be more likely to face roadside bombs or mortar fire. For others, the threat might come from automatic gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades. In Baghdads al-Sheik Maruf neighborhood, the hand grenade is the weapon of choice. Lobbed from a maze of narrow streets, alleyways and adjoining rooftops, or tossed from the balcony of a high-rise apartment complex, hand grenades are routinely employed by shadowy insurgents. U.S. soldiers seldom get a good glimpse of their attackers, if they spot them at all. Grenade attacks were relatively rare when the 1st Cavalry Divisions 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment first took control of the area that includes the al-Sheik Maruf neighborhood. Most of our attacks were direct fire from long-range, said Staff Sgt. Bryan Keeping, 25, of Gardiner, N.Y. who serves with the battalions C Crazy Wolf" Company. And theyre not very good at that. But the use of grenades has increased substantially. In the last 10 days, Staff Sgt. Keeping said, every single patrol weve been out on, weve been hit. Wednesday was no exception, when a foot patrol was attacked in front of the local police station. Two U.S. soldiers were among the eight people wounded. Late morning, two hand grenades arced toward the patrol after it had briefly stopped in front of the local police station. Some soldiers scrambled for cover; others didnt even have time to react as two almost-simultaneous explosions kicked up a cloud of dust and hurled shrapnel through the air. The staccato of automatic fire immediately followed, as Iraqi

National Guard soldiers began spraying surrounding buildings with their AK-47s until a U.S. officer ordered them to stop. The assailants were nowhere to be found, although two young Iraqi men seen acting suspiciously after the attack were taken into custody. In addition to the two injured U.S. soldiers, two Iraqi children, an Iraqi National Guard soldier and three Iraqi men also were wounded. The casualties limped or were carried into the police station, where Cpl. Alan Gonzalez, 21, of El Paso, an Army medic, and Staff Sgt. Ed Cardona, an Army Reservist whos a Dallas firefighter in civilian life, administered first aid, bandaging wounds and removing visible pieces of shrapnel. Sgt. Seth Proft, 22, of Marshfield, Wis., who was wounded in the neck, said the attackers struck so quickly we didnt have time to react. ... We just tried to get down out of the way. The grenades, he said, were lobbed high in the air so we couldnt see where they came from. Pfc. Oscar DeAlba, 24, of Pasadena, Calif., said he tried to take cover after he saw a grenade hit an earth-filled barrier outside the police station and bounce off. One piece of shrapnel hit him under his left arm. Wednesdays patrol began peacefully enough, as soldiers began walking into the neighborhood to assess infrastructure needs and talk with local businessmen about their concerns. Because some streets are so narrow that Humvees cant pass through, foot patrols are the only option in parts of the neighborhood. The soldiers distributed coloring books and candy to children, and even treated a young boy whod severely burned his foot on an electric generator. For much of the patrol, adults and children welcomed the soldiers with smiles and greetings. But all may not be as it appears. Capt. Scott Holden, 39, of Killeen, commands Crazy Wolf Company, which patrols the neighborhood. He said he believes that the patrols are shadowed and that insurgents are warned when they approach. Weve seen flags, whistling, kids driving by in scooters and honking after they get by us, he said. The patrols vary their routes and try to move quickly through the neighborhood so they are less vulnerable, but that is more difficult when part of the mission is to gauge progress, establish rapport with residents and gather information. Soldiers have changed their tactics in response to the grenade attacks, but so, too, have their attackers. Sgt. 1st Class Orlando Garcia, 42, of Brownsville, said grenade

attacks once were launched primarily at night from about 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Now theyre starting to hit us any time of the day, he said. Soldiers say they see signs of progress, such as new construction, improved school facilities and a reduction in the trash that is almost ubiquitous on Baghdads residential streets. Many Iraqis are openly friendly, and some are taking on a growing role in governing their own affairs. Unfortunately, the bad guys look just like them, said 2nd Lt. David Panian, 30, of San Diego. "They wave at us one minute, and the next minute they roll a grenade down." Lt. Col. Thomas MacDonald, 41, of Columbus, Ga., commander of the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, said neighborhood residents are being intimidated. They are reluctant to tell what they know about the grenade attacks on U.S. soldiers. With all the people around the site of Wednesdays attack, Col. MacDonald noted, someone had to know exactly who threw the grenades. And nobody is coming forward to tell us, he said.