Blowing up the Bakery

This is a great video of a nighttime AT-4 launch from the Trash OP into Husaybah, responding in kind to insurgents launching RPGs at the outpost.  I’ve researched this, and am quite sure this happened on the night of 25 June 2005.  Will Marconi has confirmed it was he and his guys, 1st Squad, 1st Plt, India Co, that fired it.

In the background you’ll hear Will yell “Beautiful!” after the  explosion. (***language warning***).  Then below, read his first-hand description of the whole incident and the aftermath…

As background, there had been a lot of action that day, with insurgents in the city engaging Trash OP from various buildings. The firefights intensified that night, involving three different elements; Marconi’s squad in their heavily sandbagged position, 2nd Platoon posted at the ING compound, and a Scout/Sniper team operating from a hide site within the city.  For some reason, that night the insurgents had decided to test the Marine positions with more than the usual pot shots. Gunfire echoed from multiple engagements, while tracers crisscrossed over the northern part of the city.  An RPG round suddenly streaked towards the OP, exploding short of 2nd Squad’s position. Then another exploded behind them.

Will Marconi, then a Corporal and Squad Leader, recalls:

It was my squad at the OP that night.  Ronnie Jackson actually saw the RPG launch when it happened, so knew exactly where it came from.  It landed about 100 meters short of us.  A few minutes later, another RPG hit behind us, like they were bracketing us.  I was getting concerned for our safety.  

We kept two AT-4 rockets out there, to counter possible VBIED attacks, but I decided we needed to use one of them to respond. Our MGs and M-16s just weren’t having good effects.  Normally we’d have to get permission for an AT-4 launch, but I couldn’t get on the radio.  2nd Platoon was also engaged, and the radio was clogged with traffic.

I’m sure it was LCpl Hartsock that fired the AT-4.  He was given an award for it later. He was the only one in squad who had fired a live AT-4 in training.  I gave Jackson my tracer mag and had him mark the target, while I had everyone else cease fire.  Then Hartsock had to get outside the sandbags, exposed to incoming, since he couldn’t fire it inside the OP because of backblast danger.  When he stood up, I ordered everyone to cover for him, lay down suppressive fire.

When the AT-4 hit the house, it blew and then flames shot way up. I was astonished at how big the explosion was. It was pretty wild. At the time, we thought we’d hit an arms cache or something the way it went up like that. It wasn’t the normal effect an AT-4 would have. Something in that house exploded, and there were flames everywhere. It seemed like the whole street caught on fire.  The flames were lighting everything up, and you could see guys running around.  

The flames illuminated the insurgents and made them vulnerable. They were in a crossfire from us, the ING and from the snipers.  Some were running away, but some were running forward to fire at us.  I remember talking to a Reaper guy years later, and he said they shot one guy who was moving forward with a backpack full of RPG rounds.  

So the fire made it hard for the insurgents to move around. That AT-4 turned the tide that night, and there wasn’t much firing at us after that.  We were supposed to be relieved that night by another squad, but all the firing delayed that.  A couple hours after the AT-4, we did get relieved and went back to Gannon.  

As soon as I got back, I was told Capt Diorio wanted to have an AAR with us so my PL, Lt Brummond, and I went over to the COC.  The LT was worried because I hadn’t coordinated the shot over the radio. We were supposed to get permission.  But the radio had been jammed, so I couldn’t get a call through. I used my own judgement.  

When we got into the COC, the Captain says, “Marconi, what do you have against Dunkin’ Donuts?”  That’s when we found out it was a bakery.  Locals were already calling in complaints because it was destroyed.  Other shop owners had their shops burning too, so it was a big deal.

But we knew the RPGs had come from there. No doubt. And us shooting that AT-4 pretty much ended the fight. I thought maybe I was in trouble, but I just explained what happened. I still remember Capt. Diorio’s response.  He told me, “Corporal Marconi, I want you to know I will not judge you for decisions on the battlefield. However, I need to know what happens on the battlefield, to adjust our tactics. So relax, you’re not in trouble. You did the right thing.”

1st Sgt Donnie Brazeal was cool about it too.  There were still flames burning on the skyline in north Husaybah, and Brazeal said, kind of joking, “Ain’t that the purtiest thing you’ve ever seen?”.  That’s the way he was, 1st Sgt Brazeal was always about supporting his Marines, and bringing everyone home.  That’s the night I realized my leaders had my back, and that India Co. was a special outfit.  

–Will Marconi, interview with author (used with permission)

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