Chris Nothstine was one of the “trackers”, from 4th AAB (Amphibious Assault Battalion), that were attached to India Co. Now a wildland firefighter in Mississippi, back in 2005 he was the Crew Chief on one of the AAVs at Gannon. Chris has graciously shared his combat journal with me, which provides great details and insights.
One of many first-hand stories in his journal describes the so-called East End Raid during the early morning hours of 2 April 2005. India’s objective for the raid was to capture or kill key members of an insurgent cell. The objectives were in the southeast corner of Husaybah, in a known bad-guy area. There were four AAVs (also called “tracs” or “tracks”) on the mission, with Chris manning the gun turret in track number 4.
It was a major raid, conducted with a reinforced platoon (2nd Plt) and attachments. About 100 Marines were part of the raid force. The concept was to move rapidly to the objectives at O-dark-thirty, thus avoiding insurgent gunmen and hitting the targets with little or no opposition. But that’s not quite how things turned out, as Chris describes below.
Here’s a map for orientation. The lighter blue line shows part of the harrowing detour that tracks 3 and 4 took that night, as Chris remembers it anyway. This is a transcription of several of Chris’ handwritten journal pages:
NIGHT RAID 4/1/05
This morning at the stroke of 0200 we rolled into the city. At 2200 on 4/1/05 we got on our tracks. Me, Massa, and Walker prayed over intercom. We staged, went over our route and objectives again, then rolled. We went to Canal St, then south on Colt 45 where a D-9 had cleared the obstacles. Friendlies were on the corner of Market and Colt 45. Once we got on Market (I was the last track) we took fire 2 blocks up.
We took constant fire all the way down Market. The fire was from the rooftops (south to north fire) a block off of Market. They were firing AK-47s loaded with straight tracers. We all missed our turn and the first track turned right at the “triangle of death”. Then we were on East End St. We took RPK and AK fire all the way down East End. There were 4-5 grunts in the back. Rivera had a SAW and was putting out heavy suppressing fire.
We missed our objective (all the tracks). Turned around and track 1 and 2 set in and took a little fire. A man popped out within 25 meters of Track 2’s rear with an RPG aimed in on them. 3/2’s snipers in the overwatch position took him out. Thank God.
3 and 4 tracks went back north on East End and hit the soccer field, then turned south on East End and went west somewhere (an RPG impacted at my track’s rear). Of course we followed track 3 because we can’t roll alone. We made some wrong turns and I advised them we need to head south back to Train Rd and then look for our objectives.
Finally we took a road to the south. Two story buildings were on both sides. We took accurate AK fire (all tracers). I opened up with the .50 cal to suppress as Rivera did the same. Then we took a left on a dead end street. Massa (my driver) reported an RPG ten meters in front. Myself and Rivera were still suppressing as we turned around at the dead end. We ran over two fences, a garden and a car. On the way back no one fired, thanks to the .50 cal and the grunts laying down suppressing fire.
I again advised 03 to take two lefts which would put us back on train. Once we were on Train, 03 finally found their street, which let me set in on my objective. The grunts got out and cleared the house. Set off two thermite grenades on the vehicles. No fire from my set position. I advised SSgt Greer we couldn’t go with our original egress plan, which had us going back through some of the same streets. I told them we took too much fire from that part of the city. The XO OK’d it. Thank God.
We took on EPWs. In our objective we had 17 kids 4-6 years old, three females and one male. Most likely we found the “Night Wolves” daycare. That was the insurgent group we were targeting on this raid. We crossed to Train Rd, then took sporadic small arms until we left. The Engineers blew [up] a shed with the RPG warhead from the dead guy and a rocket.
Our grunts were happy and pumped. The enjoyed the ride and appreciated the suppressing fire. They said we did everything perfect. When about 500 meters away, we took accurate small arms fire again, and Lopez and a SAW gunner (not Rivera) opened up and suppressed as we egressed. The [shed] blew and we were out.
0520 we were back at Gannon. Four target houses. One squad on a track plus security. 18 EPWs and 15 confirmed kills. 0 WIA, 0 KIA. It was successful. One house had IED material, batteries voltage meters, and some more stuff. AK recovered from a dead guy. RPG launch tube recovered. Another house was searched and they found and AK-47 and a pistol (US M-9). He was an ING Major. We took his weapons and him though. He was cooperative, but if he wasn’t playing [with] or training insurgents, he would have been killed in that part of town.
My crew did great, my vehicle had no issues and all I have to thank is the good Lord up above. It was like Star Wars. Massa ran over 3 walls and two cars. He also navigated well. I was amazed when they first opened up on us on Market. Our grunts were awesome and were constantly laying down fire. Many bullet holes in the track, and the 3rd shock on the STBD side bolt was sheared off.
We’re all back, and we killed at least 15 and took 18 military aged males. We did awesome. Thank God. When the first rounds went off over my head and tracers were everywhere, I thought of Lisa, and then that was it. The rest of the time we were under constant fire and in the zone. Massa and Walker both were baptized by fire on this this raid and did really well.
Massa did keep coming over the intercom and was saying “We are gonna die. We are gonna die. What the fuck? RPG! Where the fuck are we going?” I told him to follow track 3 until they found their house so we could set in. WE ALL DID AWESOME.
2 thoughts on “Chris Nothstine on the East End Raid”
I went through 3 drums of 5.56 on that raid. But I remember as soon as we hit Market St, we started taking fire, and i went to fire back, and after 2 rounds on my SAW, it jammed. I tried immediate action, but I couldn’t pull the bolt back. I ripped open the feed tray cover, and in the pitch dark, I somehow was able to clear the jam. I put the rounds back on the feed tray, slammed the feed tray cover close, racked the bolt, pulled the trigger, and started throwing rounds down range.
Its our training, brother. Blindfolded, pitch black, lost our fuckin eyes…doesnt matter. Those weapons are an extension of our bodies. We know them inside and out. Good shit my dude. Semper Fi.