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Is our tendency to experience fear & anxiety genetic?

R. Ebeling,
New York
, NY


William R. Clark, professor emeritus in the department of molecular, cell and developmental biology at U.C.L.A. and author of a number of popular books, offers the following answer:


Fear, which in humans ranges from generalized anxiety to specific phobias, is an important biological adaptation and a common behavior in all mammals.


Fear is an emotion, an unspoken memory, stored in special parts of the brain. It provokes individuals to react rapidly, almost instinctively, in the face of perceived danger.


Fear can be present in greater or lesser degrees in different individuals. When a tendency to fear is present in excess, its consequences aren't always helpful.


As many as 1/4 of all Americans will suffer from potentially debilitating anxiety, panic disorders, animal phobias and post-traumatic stress reactions at least once in their lives.

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These disorders cause not only mental anguish but a variety of real physical symptoms, including localized pain. As with other forms of behavior, we'd like to know to what extent fear is learned from environmental experience and to what extent it's influenced by our genetic makeup.


The study of fear in animals such as mice has shown that fear can be selectively bred into succeeding generations, suggesting a strong genetic component.


Randomly selected mice subjected to an "open-field test," a brightly lit, open box with no hiding places, exhibit a range of different responses. Some mice cower motionless near one wall, defecating and urinating repeatedly, whereas others roam about, sniffing and exploring without concern.


Most mice are somewhere between these 2 extremes. If fearful mice are bred with one another repeatedly over a dozen or so generations, it's possible to develop lines of mice in which all members are highly anxious and fearful in a variety of different tests.


But they don't learn this from one another or from their mothers. A newborn mouse from a fearful line, reared by a fearless mother together with fearless siblings, will still be fearful as an adult.


Specific genes associated with such behavior are currently being identified in laboratory mice. Not surprisingly, many of the genes associated with fear or the lack of it encode neurotransmitters or their receptors.


These are the molecules with in the brain responsible for chemical communication between nerve cells; they ultimately underlie all behavior. Mice lacking functional nerve cell receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) are more fearful than mice with the receptor.

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GABA is used by higher regions of the brain to tone down some of the lower brain's initial impulses and may function to decrease overly fearful responses to environmental stimuli. Similarly, mice lacking a receptor in the brain for glucocorticoid stress hormones are much less anxious than control mice.


An unexpected category of genes associated with fearfulness in mice includes some of the genes involved in the operation of biological clocks. How these genes relate to fear is unclear at present, but unraveling their role may shed new light on the origins of fear within the brains of people as well as mice.


There's considerable evidence in humans, derived largely from studies of adopted children and identical and fraternal twins reared together or apart, that a tendency toward anxiety and fear is a heritable trait.


The specific form that fear takes, phobias with specific associations, such as snakes, fear of pain, or of heights or closed spaces, is almost entirely associated with individual environmental experiences.


But the tendency to develop fearful or anxious responses to the environment in general has a clear genetic component.


As with mice, it appears that a major portion of the genetic contribution to human fear and anxiety involves neurotransmitters and their receptors, and again GABA and its receptors play a key role. But perhaps the most important neurotransmitter mediating anxiety in humans is serotonin.


Variability in the receptors responsible for clearing serotonin from the synaptic space between 2 communicating neurons correlates quite well with variation in anxiety among different individuals. Anxiety is closely connected with depression in humans and drugs that modulate serotonin levels in neuronal synapses also affect both depression and anxiety.


Serious depression also has a marked genetic component.


Fear and anxiety are influenced by many genes; there's no such thing as a simple "fear" gene that is inherited from one generation to the next. The genes controlling neurotransmitters and their receptors are all present in several different forms in the general population.


The particular combinations of these different forms that we receive from our parents will predispose us to respond with greater or lesser degrees of anxiety to events in our environment.


But the degree to which our lives are affected by this inherited predisposition will depend to a very large extent on our individual histories - the number, strength, type and duration of events that elicit such reactions in the first place.  

The Dallas Morning News May 18, 2003


'Alone and unafraid'


The Marines' 2nd Tank Battalion used speed and armor to make quick work of Saddam Hussein's regime


By Jim Landers


AL AZIZIYAH, Iraq - The Iraqis fired rocket-propelled grenades from behind a taxi parked along a distant canal. One grenade zipped across the nose of an armored amphibious vehicle and exploded in the dirt.


That angered Maj. Andrew Bianca, executive officer of the Marines' 2nd Tank Battalion. Sheathed in aluminum plate, the tracked amphibious vehicles known as amtracks can withstand rifle fire, but not rocket grenades. And Maj. Bianca's support team was in amtracks. He ordered his tank crew to fire a round at the Iraqis.


The 120 mm cannon barrel dropped slightly, then erupted with smoke and flame. The noise ripped the air so violently that Marines standing in an amtrack behind the tank were knocked off balance.


A cloud of dirt appeared behind the taxi. The shell had gone through the taxi's open windows. But shrapnel from the round finished the Iraqis and a finger of black smoke and flame soon rose from the taxi.


The tank column resumed its march to Baghdad.


For Marines and Army soldiers fighting throughout southern Iraq, this was their war: armored columns blasting through urban ambushes.


Air Force and Navy bombers made it impossible for the Iraqis to fight effectively with tanks and artillery. So when the Iraqis chose to fight, they hid in buildings and alleyways with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.


The 2nd Tank Battalion started several fights with these urban opponents. Speed mattered more than body counts or seized ground. Using tanks to punch through enemy ambushes put the Marines closer to Baghdad and Saddam Hussein's regime.


Lt. Col. Mike Oehl, the battalion's commanding officer, put it to his officers this way: "Speed is the essence of this endeavor." He was talking about a planned raid, but the remark held true for the battalion's mission in the war.


"It's hard to know what our part was in the overall war, but I'd like to think we made it a shorter war because we got here so quickly," Col. Oehl said when his unit reached Baghdad.


No single unit won the war w/Iraq. The 2nd Tank Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., brought 44 tanks, 249 other vehicles and 975 Marines to a fight spread across almost 300,000 U.S., British and Australian men and women. The 2nd Tank Battalion suffered 5 killed and dozens wounded; other units saw more fighting and suffered more casualties.


Yet several analysts agreed that the battalion exemplified the strategy and tactics that toppled Mr. Hussein in just 3 weeks of warfare.


"Armor played an incredibly important role," said Marine Lt. Col. Dale Davis, director of international programs at the Virginia Military Institute. "The real objective wasn't the destruction of the Iraqi military but the unseating of the regime and these flying columns, at the end, were key to causing the regime to collapse."


New life for the tank


Just a few years ago, the Marine Corps was so anxious to fund a new generation of aviation and amphibious equipment, it was willing to give up its tanks. Both Army and Marine Corps strategists argued that attack helicopters and helicopter-borne infantry forces were the machines needed for fast attacks.


The war gave armor advocates new life. The Army's one major attack with Apache helicopters went awry when the Iraqis, alerted that the helicopters were coming, shot up most of the force using rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.


"We're going to keep the tank and it'll be highly useful," said Kenneth Estes, author of Marines Under Armor and a retired lieutenant colonel. "Commandants and others who would like it to go away because of its monstrous budget, I'm sorry. If you're ever going to fight someone who's a serious opponent, you're going to have to have the tank again."


The 2nd Battalion's tanks traveled inland more than 500 miles from the shores of Kuwait to the streets of Tikrit, Mr. Hussein's hometown - farther than any battalion in Marine Corps history, said Lt. Gen. Earl B. Hailston, commander of Marine Forces at Central Command. They fought in Baghdad, Al Aziziyah and 4 other towns and villages in the 26 days it took for one of the battalion's companies to reach Tikrit.


Their main weapon was the M1A1 Abrams tank.


The Abrams has a 120 mm cannon and 3 machine guns. It was designed in the 1970s to give the Army tanks that were superior to anything in the Soviet arsenal.


The Russians developed the T-72 and T-84 tanks with a 125 mm cannon and the T-72 became the main battle tank of Iraq's Republican Guards. But the Abrams fires a high-velocity round that the Marines say is superior to the Soviet-designed 125 mm cannon. Some Abrams rounds are made with depleted uranium that's so dense it burns through layers of tank armor before exploding inside an enemy armored vehicle.


Firepower makes tanks the battleships of land warfare. Unlike the warships of old, the Abrams doesn't need several range-finding shots to find its target. The tank's "ballistic solution" computer is so precise, the first shot usually finds its mark, tank gunners say. The same targeting excellence holds for the tank's .50-caliber "co-ax" machine gun mounted beside the cannon.


About halfway along the barrel rests a thick pad called a "bore evacuator" that allows air to rush inside to fill the vacuum created when a shell is fired. Tankers paint names for their tanks on the bore evacuators.


Col. Oehl's crew named its tank "Deadly Mariah" and animated the name with an angry cloud blowing swords from its mouth. Maj. Bianca's tank crew reached back to Greek mythology for the name "Two Furies" – anger and vengeance, minus the third fury, jealousy, which seemed out of place in Iraq.


An Abrams tank makes little room for its 4 man crew. The driver is beneath the cannon barrel, by himself toward the front of the tank. He lies on a tilted bench and peers outside through thick prisms.


The gunner sits in the well of the turret, using thermal sights that enable him to find targets emanating heat at night or during severe storms. To his left is the tank loader, who pulls shells from a rear compartment and feeds them into the cannon. He has a turret hatch above his head equipped with a machine gun.


The tank commander sits behind and above the gunner. During the Iraq war, a Marine tank commander usually fought with his head and shoulders exposed above the turret hatch, where he could see the battlefield and fire a .50-caliber machine gun.


The tank weighs 68 tons and is powered by a 1,500-horsepower jet turbine engine. From the perspective of an opposing foxhole, it's a dreadful machine. It shakes the earth. It can travel at speeds as high as 55 mph. The shock from its cannon blast is incapacitating to anyone standing (or cowering) before it.


'Bully of the battlefield'


"The bully of the battlefield," marveled Lance Cpl. Billy Peixotto, a tank driver w/the battalion from McKinney.


The Army's 3rd Infantry Division fought with more tanks than the Marines and led the way into Baghdad with armored assaults that showed Mr. Hussein and his sons no longer controlled the capital.

But while the Army has other armored and mechanized divisions, the Pentagon turned to the Marines to fight the eastern prong of the war

as a second land army.


"They've been able to sell themselves better than the Army as the embodiment of the 'revolution in military affairs' that [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld wants," said Col. Davis. "They train and fight as a combined arms force, with maneuver and flexibility tactics."


The 2nd battalion spent most of the war at the tip of the Marines' spear. It came within 3 miles of Baghdad on April 4, after 3 days that destroyed what was left of the Al Nida Division of the Republican Guards. They cleared the way to Baghdad for the 1st Marine Division and killed a large number of Arab Muslim volunteers who heeded Osama bin Laden's call to come to Iraq to kill Americans.


In the 1991 Gulf War, the Marines played a secondary role in the land forces that reclaimed Kuwait, said Patrick Garrett, an analyst w/the Alexandria, Va., online firm Globalsecurity.org.


"In the Gulf War, they were used largely as a deception – to make the Iraqis believe there'd be an amphibious landing," he said. "It wasn't as front and center as the Marines would have liked. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, they got rid of that shadow."


Mr. Garrett credits 12 years of intense training by the Marines in combining infantry, artillery, tanks and aircraft for overcoming doubts about their fighting ability.


The 2nd Battalion used such tactics from the onset of the war. As part of the 5th Marine Regiment, the battalion sprinted into Iraq during the night of March 20, 8 hours ahead of schedule and well ahead of the rest of the U.S. forces poised to attack from Kuwait.


The regiment was ordered to strike first because of alarming (though faulty) intelligence about Iraqis firing their oil fields and placing 90 of their best tanks near the border.


The battalion raced through the night in a swinging left hook from western Kuwait to the gates of Basra. Three companies of Abrams tanks charged into Iraq, along with 4 armored amphibious vehicles serving as tracked command posts. Platoons of Scouts and anti-tank missile teams in Humvees followed, along with the Fox Infantry Company in their amtracks.


That left 75% of the battalion's vehicles behind: the fuel trucks, the ambulances and the trucks and Humvees carrying food, water, tents, ammunition and many of the other necessities of military life.


The Marine tanks outraced their communications lines, their supplies and even their air cover. Col. Oehl was reduced to sending e-mails by satellite phone to let regimental headquarters know where he was.


Col. Oehl put fuel bladders on each side of the tanks to stretch their range and lessen their dependence on supply lines. When the tanks started running low on fuel, they dropped the large black bladders under the tank treads and squeezed the precious fluid into their tanks as though it were toothpaste.


The column destroyed about 30 Iraqi vehicles that night, including 10 tanks and broke all hope of reinforcements reaching the Iraqi defenders of the 51st Mechanized Division.


Col. Oehl's demand for speed was so relentless that the battalion left behind 2 disabled tanks and their crews. The crews were told to catch up as best they could and didn't rejoin the battalion until it reached Baghdad.


Before the assault, the battalion's nickname was "Masters of the Iron Horse." At the gates of Basra, Master Gunnery Sgt. Frank Cordero suggested a new slogan: "Alone and unafraid."


Lighter, quicker


The Marines take pride in their reputation for having lighter and quicker supply lines than the Army. The 2nd Battalion exemplified this as well, though it came with a price.


The sand and dust storm on March 26 obliterated all that was even vaguely familiar about the Marines' war machines. An orange glow backlit the walls of dirt whipping across the barren Iraqi landscape. Before long, even the light disappeared as the storm swallowed all trace of the afternoon sun.


The Marines hunkered down for fitful naps. A thunderstorm broke around 9:30 p.m. and the rain fell as mud.


Col. Oehl left regimental headquarters in the black storm to head back to the battalion in a Humvee. His eyes were glued to his Magellan GPS satellite compass. He was yelling directions above the noise of the storm so his driver, unable to see a thing, could precisely retrace the 16 miles.


The meeting at 5th Regiment headquarters ended w/commanders uncertain how to get back to their units, let alone when they might resume the race to Baghdad.


It was the low point of the war. Victory was just a couple of weeks away and the miles between the Marines and Baghdad would soon fly by like laps at a NASCAR race. On this night, though, weather and exhaustion brought the Marines to a standstill.


"In retrospect, the sandstorm was very fortuitous for the U.S. forces," said Col. Davis. "Had the sandstorm not occurred, we would have still had to take that pause. ... People who said there was no supply problem were talking bull. We were very extended."


The emphasis on speed put tremendous demands on the tank battalion's supply lines. The Marines carrying fuel, food, ammo and water went several days without any sleep as they chased the tanks in their long, balky convoys.


Before the war's end, the tank crews were limited to two meals a day and some days it was just one. Once, Marines guarding the battalion's command vehicles were down to just 30 rounds of M-16 ammo apiece.


Fuel was the most crucial supply throughout the war. The tank uses the same jet turbine engine used in the Army's Apache helicopters. The tank consumes 8 gallons of fuel just to start its engine.


The race to Baghdad left no time to spare, even for topping off the fuel tanks.


"We were still refueling while we were leaving," Col. Oehl said just before the sandstorm. "We're pushing the envelope. We really are. The only thing that's going to give us that rest is if something happens up north [to Mr. Hussein]. We really need to stop here at some point and get our senses and see what tanks have issues."


Capt. Dave Bardorf of Middletown, R.I., was the officer responsible for moving supplies to the tanks. He was awake for 4 days in a row before the sandstorm brought the battalion to a halt and gave him a chance to sleep.


"You make yourself uncomfortable to stay awake," he said. "You tighten the strap on your Kevlar [helmet]."


In the darkness, behind night-vision goggles that illuminated a two-dimensional green-and-black landscape, Capt. Bardorf found himself hallucinating.


"I was staring through the night-vision goggles and telling the driver, 'Stay straight. Watch that hill. There's a ditch on the right.' And the driver was yelling, 'Captain, Captain!' I told him, 'Yeah, just stay straight.' He shook my shoulder and told me we'd been stopped for 5 minutes."


The dust, lightning and mud gave Capt. Bardorf a chance to sleep. He woke up the next day "feeling like a million bucks."


Maj. Pat Cox, the commanding officer of a Marine reserve company attached to 2nd Tanks as Delta Company, had a grimmer perspective. Lance Cpl. Eric Orlowski, 26, of Buffalo, N.Y., died when another Marine accidentally tripped the trigger of a .50-caliber machine gun on March 24. The major believed that fatigue – to both men and machines – played a role in Cpl. Orlowski's death.


"We're trying to make this a second land army and it ain't working out too well," he said.


The battalion was consciously trading fatigue for speed.


"The Marines believe speed is a casualty saver," said Mr. Estes. "It may look chaotic and worse, but you upset the enemy plan by showing up faster than anyone anticipated. It allows you to take advantage of the chaos that exists on his side."


Aggressive commanders


Central Command's Gen. Tommy Franks wanted aggressive commanders who would move their units with speed and mobility.


One of the 1st Marine Division's regimental commanders was replaced during the war. The Marines offered no official explanation, but the talk among officers in the field was that the commander and his operations officer hadn't been aggressive enough.


Before the war began, 1st Marine Division commander Maj. Gen. James Mattis held a press conference to explain his expectations.


"We can move very, very quickly," he said. "These boys were brought up in southern California [at Camp Pendleton]. They're fast on the freeway."


The Marines integrate their own air forces into their battle plans, including combat aircraft such as F-18 fighter-bombers, Harrier jets and Cobra attack helicopters.


All of these units train together. The Marines feel so strongly about integrating ground and air forces that their pilots spend a year with infantry and tank units as forward observers calling in air strikes.


Capt. Mike Shayne, a Cobra pilot who fought in Afghanistan, was a forward observer and tank cannon loader with the 2nd Battalion. A fellow Marine looked at Capt. Shayne's size 11 ˝ feet one day and nicknamed him "Krusty" (after the clown on The Simpsons). Krusty was painted on the side of the "Polish Knights" tank in the 2nd Battalion's Alpha Company.


Capt. Shayne watched glumly one afternoon as Cobra helicopters destroyed an Iraqi position while the tanks sat silent.


"I'm not having any fun right now, because I can't jump in the fight," he said.


Capt. Shayne and his tank crew soon had more fight than he'd seen in a Cobra when the 2nd Battalion led the Marines to Baghdad.


Col. Oehl had planned a reconnaissance raid to the bridges across the Saddam Canal and the Tigris River to see if they could support the 68-ton Abrams tanks.


Cobra helicopters, tanks, reconnaissance vehicles, infantry and engineers in amtracks, scout and anti-tank missile Humvees and haven mortar crews were to be in the column. The assault group was expected to move at an average speed of 30 mph, using all four lanes of an unfinished, divided highway.


But division headquarters canceled the raid. The 5th Regiment was advancing up a path that forced the Iraqis to concentrate their defenses on southern Baghdad. The Saddam Canal and the bridge over the Tigris at Al Numaniyah were well east of the regiment's position. A raid to those bridges would tell the Iraqis that the Marines' offensive was designed to hit Baghdad from the east.


Since the battalion and the rest of the 5th Regiment were ready to attack, Gen. Mattis instead ordered the regiment to head for Baghdad. Tanks would blast through the Iraqi defenses, followed by mechanized infantry units that would finish the job.


The attack seemed likely to result in a major battle with the Al Nida Republican Guard Division. Former Marine Col. Oliver North, a commentator covering the war for Fox Television, asked Col. Oehl if he could come along. Col. Oehl turned him down.


Iraqis overwhelmed


The attack began after midnight on April 2. The regiment's light-armored reconnaissance vehicles and infantry hit the Saddam Canal and overwhelmed the Iraqi defenders.


Engineers checked the bridge and declared it sound enough to handle the tanks. Now the heavier armored vehicles of the 2nd Battalion moved into the lead.


By the time the tanks reached Al Numaniyah, it was daylight. And the Iraqis had prepared a defense.


The Marine tank crews had no trouble dispatching about a dozen Iraqi T-54, T-55 and T-62 tanks. The Marines' Abrams also easily took out several BMPs – armored infantry vehicles with 73 mm anti-tank cannon.


But Iraqis in civilian clothes – a mix of Al Nida infantrymen and military volunteers with the Fedayeen Saddam – hid in the alleys and back streets of the city firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. The Marines' tanks responded with more than 160 rounds of cannon fire. It was the heaviest fighting the battalion had seen and there were several close calls.


Capt. Bardorf was standing in the passenger door of his Humvee when an Iraqi rifleman shot off the side view mirror. The captain spun around with his M-16.


"He raised his head back up in the bunker to see if he'd hit me and that was his mistake," Capt. Bardorf said.


The bridge across the Tigris at Al Numaniyah is a high concrete span that looked suspect to Marine engineers who'd studied it from aerial photos. The tank commanders had been told to cross one at a time to prevent a collapse from the weight of the tanks.


While waiting to cross, one of the tanks was hit in the rear engine compartment by an Iraqi firing a rocket-propelled grenade. The grenade disabled the tank and uncovered the Abrams' Achilles heel.


Such a grenade aimed at the rear of an M1A1 can damage the engine and stop the tank. It was a lesson the Iraqis learned well enough to use again when the 2nd Battalion reached Baghdad.


The battle of Al Numaniyah continued for 2 more days as the 5th Regiment's infantry companies took over from the tanks. The battalion suffered no casualties in its share of the fight, however and it was 60 miles closer to Baghdad.


White flags, cheering


The battalion fought again the next day, on April 3. The plan was to attack Al Nida troops defending the Basra-to-Baghdad highway at Zubaydiyah and Al Aziziyah and halt a little farther up the highway.


Col. Oehl led one part of the battalion and Maj. Bianca, the battalion's second in command, followed with the rest of the column around 11 a.m.


The column was startled by a convoy of Iraqis waving white flags and headscarves out the windows of their cars and darting in and out of the tank column.


The Iraqis were cheering the advance of the Americans.


At Al Aziziyah, however, the column once again ran into a maelstrom of grenades and small arms fire. Iraqi snipers were starting to aim at the Marine tank commanders and amtrack crews who stood up through the turrets of their vehicles.


Capt. Jon Lauder of Hastings, Minn., had placed sandbags around his turret hatch after the fight at Al Numaniyah. He dug a bullet out of one of the bags after the fight at Al Aziziyah.


"I'm a big believer in sandbags tonight," he said.


Capt. Todd Sudmeyer, commander of the Battalion's Alpha Company, led the way through Al Aziziyah. At the point where 5th Regiment commander Col. Joe Dumford wanted the tanks to stop, Capt. Sudmeyer kept going – looking, he said, for a suitable bivouac spot.


When Col. Dumford heard the tanks were 6 miles past the point where he wanted to halt, he growled over the battalion radio. "I'm going to have to put a bit in the Iron Horse," he said.


The tanks continued up the highway until they reached an Iraqi military camp. Surprised Iraqi troops opened fire, only to have their barracks blasted by the tanks.


Capt. Lauder jumped from his vehicle and ran to the rooftop of the Iraqi headquarters. He tore down the Iraqi flag flying from a pole.


"That's going home right next to the Japanese Zero my grandfather got," he said.


The battalion came through the fighting with only one injury requiring medical evacuation. First Lt. Matt Zummo, commanding officer of the battalion's Scout Platoon, took shrapnel in his arm and torso when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his Humvee.


Lt. Zummo was reluctant to leave, but he'd had a lucky day. The grenade hit the Humvee's antenna, which deflected it into a box at the back of the vehicle housing a laser range finder, which absorbed most of the blast.


"We never had much use for that range finder before, but now I think it's an awesome piece of equipment," said Sgt. Andrew Michael of Coral Springs, Fla.


Baghdad was now just 30 miles away.


An Iraqi lieutenant taken prisoner said the Marines had surprised the Al Nida division. His unit had lost radio contact with Baghdad early in the war. Aircraft had pulverized their positions on the highway. The Iraqi lieutenant said he thought the Marines were still far away when they stormed into his ranks along the highway.


Slow start


Friday, April 4, began lazily for the 2nd battalion. There was plenty of time in the morning for a meal. Navy Chaplain Lt. Anthony Bezy persuaded Sgt. Brodie Matherne to give him a haircut in the middle of the highway. Col. North flew in with the crews of a pair of Marine CH-46 helicopters and posed for pictures with many of the Marines.


By day's end, Sgt. Matherne had a bandage around a wound caused when a bullet grazed his head.


3 Marines were dead after an Iraqi ambush at At Tuwayhah and a fourth was dying.


Cpl. Bernard Gooden, 22, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., died when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded into his tank turret hatch. First Lt. Brian McPhillips, 25, of Pembroke, Mass., died in his first day as commanding officer of the Scout Platoon. He was shot in the back of the head while firing the .50-caliber machine gun in his Humvee.


Sgt. Duane Rios, 35, of Hammond, Ind., was shot in the head while standing through the turret of his infantry amtrack.


First Sgt. Edward Smith, 38, of Chicago, was mortally wounded when the battalion hit the remnants of the Al Nida's headquarters at an intersection near Hatif Haiyawi.


The battalion was surrounded by smoke and fire, exploding ammunition, smashed Iraqi armor and broken glass. Three rockets blasted craters near the weary Marines as they attempted to sleep.


The infantrymen on watch that night fired on speeding trucks, cars and a bus that seemed intent on crashing into their positions. Nine Iraqi civilians died.


But the road to Baghdad was open. Infantry units coming in behind the tank battalion reported more than 100 dead Arab Muslim volunteers who fought under the banner of Islamic Jihad. Huge ammo dumps were captured. The Al Nida Division of the Republican Guards was deemed "combat ineffective."


An Iraqi major general who was the chief of staff of the Special Republican Guards – the elite among Mr. Hussein's forces – was dead, killed by machine gun fire from one of the battalion's tanks.


"In that engagement, they put a hurtin' on us. But we put a hurtin' back on them," said Staff Sgt. Efrain Torres of Miami, the commander of the battalion's anti-tank missile TOW platoon.


Mr. Estes said the 2nd Battalion's aggressive assault was crucial to bring the Marines to Baghdad and ending the war.


"They did well. No doubt about it," he said. "You got there far too fast for the Iraqis and you had far too much firepower for them.


"There's no doubt that the Iraqis were unhinged by the rapid movement."

Jim Landers, a correspondent in The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau, was on assignment w/the U.S. Marines throughout the war.

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