CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- It’s all over for Marines of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
The seven month long deployment, which began in September 2005, was marked by progress and change, including two free elections in Iraq.
“Operating with the Iraqi Army to provide a safe and secure election process was the hallmark of our deployment,” said Lt. Col. Scott D. Aiken, the battalion’s commander. “We gave the people of Al Anbar Province another six months for their government to take hold and for their military to gain strength.”
Marines from 2nd Battalion spread their influence over the heart of Fallujah and villages surrounding nearby Saqlawiyah, just west of the city. Fallujah was a skeleton of the city it once was, much of it destroyed during fighting nearly one year before the battalion arrived. The Marines assumed security for 175,000 Fallujahans and partnered with three Iraqi Army battalions to increase their capabilities and responsibilities.
The Marines’ efforts resulted in Iraqi units controlling their own areas of responsibility.
“We’re helping them out,” said Lance Cpl. Stephen A. Lawson, a 19-year-old from Moultrie, Ga. “We got Marines working with them. Every day they’re getting better and better.”
The battalion’s training regimen for Iraqi soldiers was ambitious. They conducted courses including Combat Leaders Courses, Basic Machine Gun Courses, Combat Lifesaver Courses. They also assisted in acquiring necessary gear for Iraqi Security Forces to defeat the insurgency.
“We had to make working with the Iraqi Army a priority of effort because they were operationally controlled by us,” said Sgt. Maj. Timothy R. Mccurry, the battalion’s senior enlisted Marine. “We were partnered hand-in-hand throughout operations and now they have their own battle space in the northern half of Fallujah. They plan their own operations and their own logistics.”
Commanders and Marines alike were surprised by the vigor and tenacity of the Iraqi soldiers and police. They learned to trust each other and rely upon one another under fire.
“I didn’t think they would be as proficient as they are,” Aiken said. “We got into several scraps while working with the Iraqi Army and they always had an offensive spirit and fought well. The Iraqi Police force in the city of Fallujah is a well organized force that is growing in strength daily.”
“We are fighting side-by-side with them,” added Lance Cpl. Martin, a 19-year-old from Freidon, N.J. “We are teaching them to fight for their own country.”
Since September 2005, the Marines have conducted thousands of foot patrols, vehicle patrols and supply convoys from the battalion firm base to the line companies’ outlying firm bases.
The battalion’s Marines also discovered numerous weapons caches, capturing large amounts of munitions to including various artillery shells, rockets and small-arms such as AK-47s, RPK machine guns, and Draganov sniper rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition and hundreds of magazines. They have uncovered complete mortar systems, hundreds of mortar rounds, RPG-7 rockets, rocket launchers and even SA-7B surface-to-air missiles.
Additionally, the battalion captured improvised explosive device-making materials and complete IEDs, spoiling insurgent attempts to attack Marines, Iraqi soldier and police and civilians.
Now that it’s all behind them, Marines are looking forward to relaxing at home.
“The best part of the deployment is right now because we are going home,” said Lance Cpl. Travis E. Toothman, an infantryman with Company G.
Toothman offered a piece of advice to the Marines of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, who are replacing them here.
“Just roll with it,” he said. “Do what you’re supposed to do, remember your training and trust the guy to you’re left and right.”