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On March 31, 2004, four Americans, Blackwater contractors, were ambushed…

On March 31, 2004, four Americans, Blackwater contractors, were ambushed by Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah. The coordinated attack with grenades and machine gun fire left all four dead. The ensuing desecration of their bodies by the insurgents, including beating, setting the bodies ablaze and the hanging of two of the bodies from a Euphrates River bridge, proved to be the spark that ignited a powder-keg of violence in what would ultimately become known as the First Battle of Fallujah.

While most media outlets focused their coverage on the town west of Baghdad, the Blackwater deaths, and the American response mostly via the determined push into Fallujah by U.S. Marines, this was only part of the increased fighting. Just south of Baghdad, in what became known as the “Triangle of Death,” elements of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines were also in the mix in the town of Latifiyah.

On April 9, 2004, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert, a scout sniper with H&S Co., 2/2, and his spotter, Cpl. Winston Tucker, set up in an exposed position atop an abandoned oil tanker in an overwatch mission, covering a Marine patrol. The Marines had been tasked with finding insurgents, while providing security for Arba’een pilgrims moving through the area.

As the patrol moved on the town, Reichert observed an animal carcass lying in the patrol’s path. Using his spotting scope for closer inspection, Reichert saw what appeared to be two wires protruding from the carcass. Knowing insurgent tactics for IED (Improvised Explosive Device) placement, Reichert radioed the patrol to divert. However, the trap was already set.

An RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) was fired, as an insurgent ambush began with heavy small-arms and machine-gun fire. With the platoon pinned down, unable to successfully engage an insurgent machine-gun position, they radioed Riechert for help. The result was a shot that will be forever recorded in the annals of Marine Corps shooting lore.

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