Pendleton / Article 32 hearing / June 14, 2007
closing arguments in his Article 32 hearing, LCpl Sharratt read a
statement that he had prepared.
LCpl Sharratt's statement to the Investigating
Good afternoon, sir.
On July 28, 2003, shortly after my high school graduation, I fulfilled
my life-long ambition of enlisting in the United States Marine Corps
and serving in the infantry. I wanted to join the Marines ever since I
was in sixth grade. By my junior year of high school, I met my
recruiter, and my parents allowed me to sign the papers.
I joined the Marines out of the love for my country, a sense of duty,
and because I wanted to be the best. On February 10, 2004, I reported
to Kilo Company and met the men that I would later trust with my life
in combat. Our first sergeant in Kilo Company was then First Sergeant
Kasal, who is now a sergeant major. He gave his Marines a deep pride
and desire to be tactically sound. First Sergeant Kasal would coach us
through patrols, help us with our land navigation skills, and show us
the ropes of patrolling and ambushes.
By April 2004, all of us new-joins had settled in to our squads and
teams. I was placed in second squad, second team. My team leader was
Sergeant Wolf. We were a very tight-knit team. And Sergeant Wolf was a
great teacher. He wanted us to become the most tactically proficient
Marines as possible. He would often threaten to make us fire team rush
everywhere if we did not get better. Sergeant Wolf made us better
Marines. And when we got to Fallujah, we were a competent and
tactically proficient team.
Before I joined the Marine Corps, I signed up for the infantry because
I wanted to be the best. I knew the Marine's training was longer, and
I wanted the best training. I knew that going to combat would change
my life. But no one could ever really understand combat until they
have been there.
My first few months of combat in Shihabi was like the training I
received. We spent five months in Shihabi. There were a few
casualties, but no one died.
After five months we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, getting
into small-arms fire excursions was the last thing we wanted at this
point. We just wanted everyone to make it home. After about the
five-month mark, there was a rumor going around that we could go into
Fallujah. There was another rumor that we might not go because we were
so close to going home. The first rumor turned out to be true.
The Army came in and took over Shihabi. Our battalion was recalled
back to the firm base. We didn't have a lot of time to think about
things because we had a lot of moving parts. We had to prep HMMWVs,
practice fireteam rushing, and room clearing. They told us Fallujah
was going to be a shit hole and we were going to be shot at. We were
going to have to man up and deal with it. And we did for several days
-- all we did for several days was get in our High Back HMMWVs.
Our High Back HMMWVs had 240 Gulfs. They wanted machine gunners to
stand up there with armor up to their waists. We went to Motor T to
get old HMMWV doors and stick them upside down on the turret to
provide more armor. We also got our primary Operation Phantom Fury
brief. I don't remember who gave the brief. But we were sitting there,
and they were showing us routes we were taking and told us they were
pounding Fallujah with artillery. They told us that they pulled all
the civilians out and the only people left in that city were people
that wanted to kill us and were going to fight until the bitter end.
You can look around the room, and you have the motivated Marine
screaming, Oohrah, Semper Fi. Then you have the other type of guys
looking down at the ground, shaking their head thinking, This could be
it, this could be the end. Then you have the mixed-emotion guys that
had nothing on their face. They didn't know how to feel. To be honest,
I think I was one of the mixed-emotion Marines. I knew that we all
felt like we could be the one to die in Fallujah. After the brief, we
got into our squads and got our team briefs.
I remember the day before the push into Fallujah, the whole battalion
was brought outside the firm base. And we didn't know what was
happening. But we knew it was a small brief. We got some words of
motivation. The CO told us to put our game faces on and said, God
speed. Then they brought out these two horses with chariots attached
to them. A few Marines were dressed up like Spartan warriors with duct
tape all over their Kevlars to make them look like Spartan helmets.
My friend Nichol had a baseball bat with duct tape and 5.56 ammo to
make it look like a mace. Then Nichol gave his, I am PFC Nichol, a
spin off of Brave Heart. They got the horses and chariots on
line. And the Marines got into the little carts. They raced the horses
down the track a couple of times. This brought a lot of stress off our
chest because it gave us a good laugh.
When that was over, we had a barbeque with some good hamburgers and
hotdogs. After we all ate and got fat, we sat around talking and
smoking cigars. They handed out cigars to the whole battalion. After
that, we grabbed some rack time because the next morning we were
getting up early and starting Phantom Fury.
Basically, the HMMWVs pulled up to the first road in Fallujah. And we
dismounted and got into a tactical column. Within five minutes of
pushing down the road, by the time we got to the first intersection,
we started taking small-arms fire. For the first few days in Fallujah,
we saw constant combat. And I saw 17 of my friends wounded.
and Sergeant Heflin, the first squad leader, were also killed.
Over the previous five months, the Marines I got to know and got to
live with became more than just friends. They became brothers.
One of the most important days of my life occurred on November 13,
2004. We were on a patrol walking down the street when we saw third
squad taking the other side of the road. As we approached the hell
house, we began to hear gunshots. My squad started to clear and secure
nearby houses. We learned that third squad was trapped inside of a
house and needed help. They were taking fire from a hole in the
The insurgents were raining down fire from the second floor. Sergeant
Wolf put together a team to go into the house and pull the Marines
out. First Sergeant Kasal and PFC Nichol had already gone into the
house and got hit by a grenade in the first room. The second we got in
the house, there was smoke, dust, and confusion.
There was a lot of screaming. Carlisle had already been shot multiple
times in the leg. PFC Nichol and Sergeant Major Kasal had already been
hit. I could hear them screaming, but I couldn't hear what they were
saying. I can remember them screaming, We need help, hurry the fuck
up, hurry the fuck up. We yelled back, We are doing what we can, just
hang in there. But in the back of our minds, we knew we couldn't go
into the kill zone; or we would wind up being another man that needed
help. I felt terrible screaming for them to hang in there knowing any
minute they could die.
We were in a living room with a dead insurgent laying on the ground.
The bullets were flying all over the house. You couldn't get close to
any doors without being shot. The team I was with was trying to move
to a door near where the insurgent was firing at the wounded Marines.
I will never forget what happened in that room.
When Kilo Company was doing the workup for the deployment, we became a
close group of friends. A few days before the hell house, I remember
standing around in the smoke pit talking to Sergeant Norwood. When you
are in combat, you talk about the little things in life, the things
you look forward to when you get back. I remember talking with Norwood
about all the food we were going to eat and when we got back.
When I got back from Fallujah, I had to eat for the both of us. When
we got into the hell house, Norwood came into the room that we were
bunkered down in. He was a Marine that I was proud to have served
with. He was the kind of Marine who liked to get his feet dirty. He
always wanted to help other Marines.
When we were bunkered down in the room, I remember Norwood coming into
the room. He was one of the bravest men I have ever known. He had got
a bit close in the room and didn't know that bullets were flying so
close to the door. I was only in the hell house for ten minutes, but
it felt like forever.
When I think about what happened with Norwood, everything was in slow
motion. I remember him coming into the room and moving towards the
door. I screamed to him not to go near the door. Thinking back to the
hell house, I don't remember much that was said because the tunnel
vision started kicking in. But all I remember is screaming for Norwood
not to go near the door.
It all happened so fast. And when he got close to the door, an AK-47
round came through the door. I remember seeing the back of his head
explode. The insurgent shot him straight through the face. And in an
instant, Norwood was laying in a pool of blood near the doorway.
I remember how I felt. I was angry. I ran into the door where Norwood
was and fired 200 rounds at the insurgents while a few other Marines
dragged his body out of the way. Another Marine came up with an idea
to bust up the wall of the house with any Marines necessary to pull
out the wounded. Once everyone was evacuated, someone through a
20-pound satchel charge as far in the house as possible. While we were
pulling back, the satchel charge blew the bottom of the house out; and
A few Marines stayed to assess the threat level. One last insurgent
had enough life left in him to throw a grenade while pinned underneath
the rubble. No Marines were killed by the grenade, and someone went
over and shot the insurgent. Later, I heard there were at least five
insurgents fired from above. I learned that these insurgents would
never give up.
When our platoon returned to the firm base, it was an emotional
moment. I took that time to go to the Marines that were hurting and
crying to help cheer them up. I am an upbeat and positive person. And
I try not to let the negative in. I rarely cry. I haven't cried in a
long long time.
In late January and early February, Kilo Company came back to
Pendleton. Our first month after redeployment was laid back without
much field training. I took some post-deployment leave and went home
to Pennsylvania. One thing I realized when I was home is that the
situational awareness that I developed in Iraq followed me back to the
United States. I was looking at every little detail. I was noticing
everything just like I was in Iraq. I was happy to be home and safe.
I tried to act like nothing changed, but it had. I knew it wasn't
everyone else that changed. It was me. It was strange at first not
being with the brothers I made in Iraq. But I got over that because I
knew in 15 days, I would rejoin them to train for our next deployment.
When I got back to Camp Pendleton, it was a relief because I was back
where I belonged with the Marines that I loved. Our new company
commander was Captain McConnell. The Captain was a good officer who
worked the company hard in preparation for the next deployment.
In September 2005, we left the states to go on our next deployment. A
lot of the Marines had been with me in Fallujah, and I knew them well.
We also had some junior Marines that we were getting to know. This
time around, I was with first squad.
The night before on November 19th our squad was told around 0600 we
would conduct a convoy operation out to the COP to drop off several
Iraqi Army soldiers. This was a mission that Kilo Company performed
almost daily. The platoon in Kilo rotated every three days between
patrols, the combat outposts, the quick reaction force, and rest.
On November 19 I woke up around 0500. Around 0530, I went over to the
briefing room. And Sergeant Wuterich gave us a brief on the mission.
Wuterich was a great squad leader. He cared a lot about his Marines.
And he listened to them. During the brief, he gave us the SOP for what
to do if we were hit by an IED. We were told to clear the kill zone,
set up a cordon, and look for the trigger man. Then we went through
the SOP for indirect fire and near and far ambushes. The brief took
about 15 to 20 minutes. Then we went out to the vehicles, loaded up,
did some COMM checks, then waited for everyone to get ready.
I was in the turret of the first vehicle. It was a normal morning. The
weather was cooling off. During the brief, I had gotten Doc Woods’
9-millimeter pistol. I asked him for the pistol because I thought it
was ridiculous to have to fire warning shots at oncoming vehicles with
an automatic weapon.
These missions usually took 20 minutes to an hour depending on how
long the crypto change lasted and how long the Iraqis took to change
over at the COP. If the mission had gone smoothly, we would have gone
back to the QRF at Sparta and hung out until we were needed for
After our convoy left Sparta, we headed down Route Leopard to the COP.
It was still probably only about 0630, which was normal. It was early,
and the traffic was light. The change-over at the COP lasted about
10to 15 minutes. I hung out in the turret and had a smoke. After the
change-over, we pulled on to River Road. The traffic was a little
heavier, but there still wasn't much.
I was constantly scanning for IEDs. You can't be too paranoid about
everything. And it is tough to spot IEDs while you were moving. But
usually, you look for suspicious activity, fresh dirt, wire sticking
up, and big clumps of metal.
I don't remember any civilians being out that day. It took about five
minutes to drive down River Road before we made a left on Chestnut.
Chestnut was a paved four-lane road that had a concrete lifted median.
It was usually a busy road. The first two vehicles made a lift-hand
turn for River Road on to Chestnut into the lanes on the right of the
median. We were driving about30, 40 miles per hour, and the vehicles
were about 75 to100 meters apart so that one IED would not take out
We had driven about 500 meters, and my vehicle passed Route Viper. I
saw a white four-door sedan that had people in it. About 50 meters, I
started to waive for the car to pull over. It started to veer off to
the side of the road. As my vehicle passed the car, I heard the
explosion from the IED. The explosion was big, and it shook the ground
causing me to jump a little bit. I turned around and looked. All I saw
was a huge smoke cloud and debris flying through the air. I checked to
see if the other vehicles were still there. I yelled down from the
turret to Salinas and Rodriguez that I could see vehicles two, three,
and said, I am not seeing four, I am not seeing four.
There is just a big cloud of smoke. Then I saw Salinas jump out of the
vehicle and start running towards vehicle four. I immediately turned
around to the front to monitor the sector to the west. I could hear
small-arms fire both 7.62 and 5.56 rounds behind me. I stayed focus on
my sector to the west because I was anticipating a coordinating
attack. I saw Rodriguez jump out of the vehicle and run around to the
other side to monitor his sector to the north. After about a minute
of scanning my sector to the west, I heard Rodriguez yell up to the
turret, "The fourth vehicle is hit, TJ is dead." I said, "Shit;" and
Rodriguez said, "Fucking A, man."
I kept scanning to the front sector because I didn't want a vehicle
born IED to come down the road and hit us. After about two minutes,
the decision was made to back the vehicles up. Rodriguez backed our
vehicle up about the intersection of Viper and Chestnut. After a few
minutes, the first QRF showed up, set up security, and grabbed the
casualty. I saw the QRF drive off.
The next thing I saw was two Marines running into a depression and up
a hill to our south. I thought it was only those two Marines running
in that direction. I knew I had to help them. I decided to dismount
the 240 Gulf from the turret because it was only two Marines; and I
wanted to bring more fire power to the table, plus, my SAW and gear
were below in the back seat of the vehicle. It was faster to grab the
I was also concerned that if I got separated from them while trying to
catch up, I would need the extra firepower. I dismounted the 240 Gulf,
I slung some rounds over my shoulder, and I jumped off the turret and
started running down and back up the hill with the 240 Gulf.
I don't know exactly what happened in houses one and two, and I didn't
witness with my own eyes what happened in those houses. I shot the
lock off a third house that ended up being empty. And we cleared a
fourth empty house as well. I remember then moving back up to Route
Zebra towards Route Chestnut. Once we got back to the vehicles, I
threw the 240 Gulf up on top of my HMMWV and pulled my SAW and ammo
out of the back. Lieutenant Kallop then ordered us to create an
observation post on top of the house next to the IED site.
On top of the OP, it was myself, Corporal Salinas, Sergeant Wuterich
and, at first, Lance Corporal Rodriguez was up there with us. We were
calm on the OP. We smoked several cigarettes and just sat around and
talked while we observed the area. After a while, Lieutenant Kallop
came up and told Rodriguez to go with him to house one. While on the
OP, the helos fire hellfire missiles in support of Weapons Platoon at
what later I learned was a house with insurgents in it.
Sometime around then, we noticed some Iraqi males were looking over
the wall in front of a house on Viper. This was suspicious because
they would watch us and then duck away when they saw that we were
watching. They did not act several times. We had been waiving at them
to scare them off. After a few minutes of them watching us, Corporal
Salinas fired an M203 training round at the wall in front of the
house. At that point, I saw two men leave the wall in front of the
house four and run back inside house four.
After a few minutes, they started watching us again and would peek at
us and run back inside. The turkey peeking caused us to have serious
concerns. We had no idea if the Iraqi males were triggermen or
lookouts for other insurgents. We were trained that under certain
circumstances, turkey peeking, like what we were watching, could be
considered hostile intent. We had no desire to hurt these men. And for
that reason, we did not fire an HE at them. Eventually, our concerns
for our safety was enough that we decided to go find out why they were
We walked down from the OP and began walking north on Viper towards
this suspicious house. At first, I actually thought both houses were
one. I went through the gate from house three and walked up to the
front door. During both combat tours, I searched hundreds of houses.
Haditha was a very dangerous place where we were trying to develop a
relationship within the community.
When we went to house three, we did not know who was at that house
other than the males that were observing us. When I walked up to the
house, the front door was closed but not locked. When I entered the
house, there were four our five adult women in the room and a couple
of children. I don't remember seeing any adult males. I began
searching several rooms. I remember Sergeant Wuterich and Corporal
Salinas talking to the women. The SOP is usually to ask in Arabic if
there are any weapons. Then the SOP is to ask if there are any males
Sergeant Wuterich and Corporal Salinas called me over. And I think it
was Salinas that told me that the women were pointing that the men
were next door. I stepped outside, and Sergeant Wuterich told me to go
with him over to house four while Salinas waited with the women and
children in house three. I was in the lead as we walked over to house
four. I had my SAW and my 9-mil. We were cautioned as we entered the
house because of the IED that morning. The fact that Weapons Platoon
needed support from Hellfire missiles, the suspicious turkey peeking
from the men, and the fact that they were hiding in a house with the
women and children next door.
I entered the house through the front door. It was quiet. I moved into
the center meeting room, and Staff Sergeant Wuterich followed me. We
cleared the room by walking along the walls. The room was mostly
empty. I remember that there were some mats on the floor. Sergeant
Wuterich and I began to stack along the door on the wall that allowed
access to the interior hallway and stairs.
As we started to stack ourselves, I glanced across the hallway and saw
an Iraqi male pointing an AK-47 at me as if he was going shoot. I
quickly shouldered my SAW and tried to fire, but it jammed. When the
SAW jammed, I withdrew behind the wall. At the same time, I dropped my
SAW letting the sling catch it near my waist. Then I jumped back. I
bumped into Staff Sergeant Wuterich who was behind me. I knew that
there were insurgents with weapons in that room. I had to move fast to
establish fire superiority, or Sergeant Wuterich and I could wind up
As I was pulling back in the room dropping the SAW to my side, I said,
"Jam," to Staff Sergeant Wuterich, while simultaneously drew my
9-millimeter sidearm. I leaned out past the door jam waiting for the
insurgent to present himself. When the insurgent popped back out from
behind the door, I shot him once in the head; and he fell backwards. I
began to assault through the objective and stepped forward into the
bedroom doorway. I could hear an AK-47 racking its chamber.
As I stepped into the doorway, to my front was another insurgent with
his AK-47 waist level as though he just completed racking it. I
immediately fired at his chest and head firing several times with my
pistol. After shooting him, I continued to shoot the other individuals
in the room. I kept firing until my magazine was empty because I
didn't know if they had body armor on or suicide vests. As I fired at
the other insurgents in the room, I felt as if they were coming
After I ran out of ammo, I yelled, I'm out. SergeantWuterich entered
the room and fired his M-16 at the men too. By the time Sergeant
Wuterich came in the room, I felt as though I shot all the men in the
After clearing the room, I grabbed the two AK-47s. And Sergeant
Wuterich and I searched the rest of the rooms in the house. As we were
leaving the house, we found a suitcase with three or four Jordanian
passports in it, clothes, and hygiene gear. We left the house with the
suitcase and the AK-47s.
When we got back to the HMMWVs, I handed the suitcase and the AK-47s
to Lance Corporal Tatum who was pulling security on the vehicle. I do
not remember seeing those AK-47s or suitcase again.
We did not execute any Iraqi men in house four. I am a disciplined
Marine, and I have always tried to act professionally with the
On November 19, I did exactly as I was trained to do. After I stacked
myself against the wall, I was surprised by the Iraqi in the doorway
with the AK-47. I jumped back and bumped into Sergeant Wuterich. After
that, my training took over and everything that my first sergeants and
squad leaders have ever taught me came into play. I heard Staff
Sergeant Fields talk about what we thought would happen if we made a
mistake and violated the ROE. There was a common saying amongst us, I
would rather be tried by a jury of 12 of my peers instead of being
carried by six of my friends in a casket.
I think about what happened in those houses – house four every day,
and I question myself every day whether I made the right decision. In
the end, no matter how much I second guess myself, I would not change
any of the decisions I made that day.
I cannot ever express to my parents how much their support means to
me. My mother once said that I was her hero. I want her to know that
she is my hero and my father is my hero. I will always be proud of my
service in Iraq, and I will always be proud to be a Marine.
That is all, sir.