BARWANAH, Iraq -- Like a sledgehammer to a watermelon, Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines spent a week demolishing insurgent activity in the region during Operation Pit Bull here Feb. 10-17.
Marines with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment and Iraqi Army soldiers swept more than 15 square kilometers of Barwanah and found more than 10 weapons caches during the operation. They also detained two insurgents.
The Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based Marines and the Iraqi soldiers spent almost six months in Iraq’s western Al Anbar Province conducting counter-insurgency operations and providing stability to the “Triad” area of Haqlaniyah, Barwanah and Haditha.
Operation Pit Bull, a battalion-wide offensive designed to squash insurgent operations east of the Euphrates River, was focused in the city of Barwanah because of increased attacks against coalition forces, said Staff Sgt. Jason T. Kyle, platoon sergeant for the company’s 1st Platoon.
The unit found three improvised explosive devices and encountered an enemy grenade attack while on a foot patrol in the city--all within a five-day period.
The insurgents’ attacks did not cause any casualties for the Marines or Iraqi soldiers.
“Our job was to keep the terrorists in check,” said Lance Cpl. Philip M. Peterson, a team leader with 1st Platoon, Company L. “If they can’t establish a foothold in the area, they will give up and go somewhere else.”
In the past six weeks, the Marines and Iraqi soldiers have been focusing mainly on the outskirts of the city during Operations Red Bull I and II. This operation had Company L Marines, Iraqi soldiers, combat engineers with metal detectors and even a specialized search dog looking for insurgent activity, showing insurgents there is no place for them to hide.
“We have been here almost four months and haven’t searched the city since we got here,” said Kyle, a Chagrin Falls, Ohio native.
The continuing operations help keep the Marines focused as they near the end of their deployment out here. The words, “Complacency Kills,” are painted on many walls of the firm base here and operations like this ensure complacency doesn’t affect their Marines.
“We’ve made it this far, the last thing we want is a memorial,” said Kyle.
“It’s like we are beginning the fourth quarter of a football game,” said 1st Lt. T. Ryan Sparks, a San Diego native and L Company executive officer. “Instead of slacking off, we are giving it our all to the end.”
Operations like these also further help the Iraqi soldiers become more experienced when operating in the area, said Iraqi Army Capt. Mohammed Noor, commanding officer,1st Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade. Each operation and each day the Iraqi soldiers spend working with the Marines is a day closer they are able to provide security for the city by themselves in the future.
“Discipline and experience are the most important things my soldiers gain from working with the Marines,” said Noor.
When conducting operations with Marines, Iraqi soldiers like Pvt. Bassim Kassim integrate into Marine fire teams and become just another member. From leading house searches to interacting with local civilians, the Iraqi soldiers learn many different mannerisms from the Marines, such as patience in stressful situations and proper weapons handling techniques.
“Their actions and their behavior is something I will take with me when no longer working with Marines,” said Kassim, a rifleman with the company. “Someday I will become just like a Marine.”
“The Iraqis have come a long way since we first got the area,” added Peterson, an Edmond, Okla., native.
The operation came less than two months away from the battalion’s return to their southern-California base. Many Marines try not to think about it but thoughts of home creep into their minds daily.
“Lots of Marines talk about how they are going to do all these things as soon as they get home,” said Kyle. “For me, I’m just looking forward to not doing anything and relaxing back home.”
Even though the Marines are nearing the end of their time in Iraq, the battalion shows no signs of slowing down their hunt for insurgents. They’ll continue actively seeking out anti-Iraqi forces and paving a path for their replacements’ success.
The unit will be replaced by the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
“We are hopefully setting up the next unit for success,” said Kyle. “If we can keep the insurgents on their heels, it will be that much easier for them (Marines) to get settled and learn the area.”