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Dragoons lend a helping hand

7 Apr 2006 | 1st Lt. Nathan Braden

Some of the Corps’ baddest gunslingers rode in from the West recently to lend a helping hand to the Marines near Fallujah.

Marines of D Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion arrived at Camp Fallujah March 18 for temporary duty with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“It shows their great flexibility and adaptability to transition from the west,” said Lt. Col. Nathan I. Nastase, RCT-5’s 39-year-old operations officer from Indiana, Pa.

Arriving in Iraq in early March, 3rd LAR Battalion replaced 1st LAR Battalion under Regimental Combat Team 7 for operations in western Al Anbar Province, near the Syrian Border.  The company operated for several days near the border town of Al Qaim before receiving their marching orders with RCT-5.

“I thought we would be working out west near Al Qaim for the whole deployment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Daniel L. Curtis, 32, the company’s gunnery sergeant from Bellevue, Wash.  “We were there for about three days before we were called to AO Raleigh.”

As the company’s senior enlisted tactical advisor, Curtis offered advice on the area because of his experience during his last deployment to Iraq.

“I was with Charlie Company on my last deployment operating in this area,” Curtis said.    “I’ve been able to give the company some ‘intel’ from my previous experience.”

Curtis said that he even though he is familiar with the areas around Fallujah, he understands that some things likely changed since his last deployment.

“It’s helpful to know the terrain and atmosphere, but a lot has changed,” Curtis added. 

The Dragoons, as the company is known, supported 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment soon after arriving during a sweeping operation in the battalion’s zone.  The company used their speed and mobility to quickly establish blocking position as grunts from the battalion searched for insurgents.

The company’s most recent mission was an extended security operation into the Northern Regimental Security Area, a rural area located north of RCT-5’s area of operations.

“We are perfect to work in the NRSA because of our unique capabilities of speed and firepower,” said Capt. Hunter “Ripley” Rawlings, the 34-year-old company commander from Boulder, Colo.  “We are able to move quickly and get around the enemy’s rear area, disrupting his command and control, supply and training areas.  Basically, we can get into his comfort zone and poke him in the eye.”

The company spent several days keeping the highways clear of roadside bombs, establishing observation posts and looking for insurgents.

They performed a critical mission, Nastase said.  “They allowed us to maintain a presence in areas we might otherwise be unable to address.”

The change of scenery has been a welcome event for some the company’s Marines.

“I was expecting to be in the same area but it’s nice floating around because it helps the time go by quick,” said Cpl. Peter D. Virtue, 24, an LAV crewman from Denair, Calif.  Virtue deployed last year to Iraq with D Company, but operated entirely in the western side of the province. 

“I’ve never seen these areas,” he added.  “It’s kind of nice seeing these areas where the other Marines are at.”

Their mission has additional benefits beyond sight seeing and visiting fellow Marines.

“It’s good to change up the terrain and situation on the Marines to keep them on their toes and avoid complacency,” said 1st Lt. Patrick H. Murray, the 26-year-old company executive officer from Charlottesville, Va.