Working in Iraq's Most Dangerous Neighborhood
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San Diego Union - Tribune & AP ^ | July 29, 2006 | Antonio ...
July 29th, 2006 11:09 PM
Working in Iraq's Most Dangerous Neighborhood
Marine sniper metes out swift death in Iraq's most dangerous neighborhood
San Diego Union - Tribune & AP ^ | July 29, 2006 | Antonio Castaneda
Posted on 07/29/2006 3:58:46 PM EDT by traumer
RAMADI, Iraq – He was 5 when he first fired an M-16, his father holding him to brace against the recoil. At 17 he enlisted in the Marine Corps, spurred by the memory of Sept. 11.
Now, 21-year-old Galen Wilson has 20 confirmed kills in four months in Iraq – and another 40 shots that probably killed insurgents. One afternoon the lance corporal downed a man hauling a grenade launcher 5½ football fields away.
Wilson is the designated marksman in a company of Marines based in downtown Ramadi, watching over what Marines call the most dangerous neighborhood in the most dangerous city in the world.
Here, Sunni Arab insurgents are intent on toppling the local government protected by Marines.
Wilson, 5-foot-6 with a soft face, is married and has two children and speaks in a deep, steady monotone.
After two tours in Iraq, his commanders in the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment call him a particularly mature Marine, always collected and given to an occasional wry grin.
His composure is regularly tested. Swaths of central and southern Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, are dominated by insurgents who regularly attack the provincial government headquarters that Marines protect.
During a large-scale attack on Easter Sunday, Wilson says, he spotted six gunmen on a rooftop about 400 yards away. In about 8 seconds he squeezed off five rounds – hitting five gunmen in the head. The sixth man dived off a 3-story building just as Wilson got him in his sights, and counts as a probable death.
“You could tell he didn't know where it was coming from. He just wanted to get away,” Wilson said. Later that day, he said, he killed another insurgent.
Wilson says his skill helps save American troops and Iraqi civilians.
“It doesn't bother me. Obviously, me being a devout Catholic, it's a conflict of interest. Then again, God supported David when he killed Goliath,” Wilson said. “I believe God supports what we do and I've never killed anyone who wasn't carrying a weapon.”
He was raised in a desolate part of the Rocky Mountains outside Colorado Springs, “surrounded by national parks on three sides,” he says. He regularly hunted before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as a teenager. His brother also serves in the military.
Guns have long been part of Wilson's life. His father was a sniper in the Navy SEALS. He remembers first firing a sniper rifle at age 6. By the time he enlisted he had already fired a .50-caliber machine gun.
“My father owned a weapons dealership, so I've been around exotic firearms all my life,” said Wilson, who remembers practicing on pine cones and cans. “My dad would help me hold (an M-16), with the butt on his shoulder, and walk me through the steps of shooting.”
Technically, Wilson is not a sniper – he's an infantryman who also patrols through the span of destroyed buildings that make up downtown Ramadi. But as his unit's designated marksman, he has a sniper rifle. In the heat of day or after midnight, he spends hours on rooftop posts, peering out onto rows of abandoned houses from behind piles of sandbags and bulletproof glass cracked by gunfire.
Sometimes individual gunmen attack, other times dozens. Once Wilson shot an insurgent who was “turkey peeking” – Marine slang for stealing glances at U.S. positions from behind a corner. Later, the distance was measured at 514 meters – 557 yards.
“I didn't doubt myself, if I was going to hit him. Maybe if I would have I would have missed,” Wilson said.
The key to accuracy is composure and experience, Wilson says. “The hardest part is looking, quickly adjusting the distance (on a scope), and then getting a steady position for a shot before he gets a shot off. For me, it's toning everything out in my head. It's like hearing classical music playing in my head.”
Though Wilson firmly supports the war, he used to wonder how his actions would be received back home.
“At first you definitely double-guess telling your wife, mom, and your friends that you've killed 20 people,” Wilson said. “But over time you realize that if they support you ... maybe it'll make them feel that much safer at home.”
He acknowledges that brutal acts of war linger in the mind.
“Some people, before they're about to kill someone, they think that – 'Hey, I'm about to kill someone.' That thought doesn't occur to me. It may sound cold, but they're just a target. Afterward, it's real. You think, 'Hey, I just killed someone,'” says Wilson.
Insurgents “have killed good Marines I've served with. That's how I sleep at night,” he says. “Though I've killed over 20 people, how many lives would those 20 people have taken?”
Wilson plans to leave the Marines after his contract expires next year and is thinking of joining a SWAT Team in Florida – possibly as a sniper.
Former Army Infantry Captain; 25 yrs as an NRA Certified Instructor; Avid practitioner of the martial art: KLIK-PAO.
July 29th, 2006 11:09 PM
July 29th, 2006 11:21 PM
Thanks for sharing this story. It shows the value to our country of bringing kids up right in their experience with firearms. Obviously, the better shots are going to be by people who have used them their whole life.
I hope that this young Marine does well and is able to realize his dream of joining the SWAT team in Florida.
July 29th, 2006 11:26 PM
Galen - we owe you a debt of gratitude.
It takes a man of special skill and mental maturity to achieve those results. His unit is hopefully well aware of his efforts, undoubtedly having saved many of his brother's lives.
Thx Jim - fascinating article.
Chris - P95
NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.
"To own a gun and assume that you are armed
is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."
- a portal for 2A links, articles and some videos.
July 29th, 2006 11:33 PM
God bless Lance Corporal Galen, his fellow Marines and the rest of our men and women that are in harms way.
USAF: Loving Our Obscene Amenities Since 1947
July 30th, 2006 12:12 AM
oorah, LCpl Wilson!
"We must remember that one man is much
the same as another, and that he is best
who is trained in the severest school."
~Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
July 30th, 2006 12:29 AM
A young man to be very proud of!
July 30th, 2006 12:36 AM
Funny ya don't here many of these stories
July 30th, 2006 03:17 AM
Good Job, keep up the good work.
USN 78-82/USAF 82-93 Medically Retired
Desert Shield/Desert Storm
DAV Life Member
NRA Life Member
July 30th, 2006 07:43 AM
You know if the media would just show our country more examples of fine, honorable, young men and women like this maybe our culture would improve a bit? Sure beats them touting gangsta wanna be's, sports stars and party animals.
Good on ya mate and thanks for doing a fine job!
If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good. ~ Thomas J. Watson, Jr.
July 30th, 2006 09:43 AM
You are doing good Marine LCpl Wilson. I would call this a profile of a great American.
July 30th, 2006 01:09 PM
YOUR DAD IS VERY PROUD OF YOU !!
Just continue to do your job. The job that not many men want,but somebodys gotta do. Without prejudice. ---------
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