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ND graduate reflects on Carroll mission

Steve Kerins | Friday, September 15, 2006

Many students at Notre Dame hope to earn a place in the public eye after they graduate. For Jake Cusack, a 2004 graduate, high-profile attention came in the form of an international news story – the Jill Carroll kidnapping.

After Carroll, a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped in Baghdad on Jan. 7, Cusack helped bring those responsible to justice and took part in other significant operations for the military.

Cusack, who has been home on leave since August, served as a Marine Corps sniper platoon commander during an eight-month tour of duty in Iraq.

“I was on a ROTC scholarship while I was at Notre Dame from the Marines, so right after I graduated I [went] into my training,” Cusack said, noting that three of his housemates during his senior year are also currently in the military. He was deployed to Iraq at the beginning of this year.

“[I was] in charge of 18 snipers,” he said, “and so we did recon and surveillance and then target acquisition, actual sniper missions.”

Cusack also played a role in the investigation following Carroll’s release. She was freed on March 30, but her kidnappers remained at large.

“Over the next couple weeks [following Carroll’s release], I started getting some different intelligence that she might have been held in our area,” Cusack said. “Then in May I got another piece of [intelligence] that made me pretty confident that she had been held in our area in a specific place.”

Once Cusack and his team located the house where they believed Carroll had been held, they planned a mission to confront the kidnappers at a time when intelligence indicated they would be there.

“We hit a couple of … roadside bombs and took a little bit of small arms fire,” Cusack said of the trip.

When they arrived, they found and questioned the house’s owner while Cusack searched the premises.

“[There was] a trap door in the shower room,” he said. “[During the search] I found Jill Carroll’s e-mail address and a lot of money – crisp hundred dollar bills.”

After uncovering the evidence, Cusack said they “were confident that they were the right guys.”

Although the takedown occurred in May, “the whole thing was kept classified for awhile,” Cusack said. “It wasn’t even made public until I got home.”

“[The story] was a pretty big deal when it first broke,” he said. “There’s been kind of a lot of attention. Obviously I was not the only person involved – there were a lot of other people who were important to it.”

Cusack also recalled an incident in June in which he and others were able to subdue a group of hostile insurgents and reclaim weapons taken from a Marine sniper unit that was overrun in 2004.

“The rifle [the insurgents] were using [against us] was that same Marine Corps rifle … taken back in 2004, and it was used to kill several Marines since then,” Cusack said. “So it was a good win to get that back.”

Cusack will return to his job as a sniper platoon commander once his leave is over.