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LAR maps out traditional mission in Iraq

7 Apr 2006 | 1st Lt. Nathan Braden

Call it Light Armored Reconnaissance Version 2.6.  This one looks a lot like the original.

Marines riding atop of light armored vehicles found themselves performing a traditional, but not-very-often executed mission of searching for the best path forward.

A recent route reconnaissance mission from Regimental Combat Team 5 gave the Marines of D Company, 3rd LAR Battalion a chance to put their traditional scouting skills into action.

“Route recons are a very traditional LAR mission,” said Capt. Hunter “Ripley” Rawlings, D Company’s 34-year-old commander from Boulder, Colo. 

Since Operation Iraqi Freedom, LAR units have basically been used as highly mobile infantry, but going into the enemy’s rear area and gathering information for higher headquarters is one of their core competencies, he added.

The reconnaissance was lead by 1st Lt. Michael D. Simon, a veteran LAR Marine on his second deployment to Iraq as a platoon commander with D Company. 

“I’ve done a bunch of zone recons but this is the first actual route recon with soil samples, water speeds and everything,” said Simon, the 25-year-old commander of 1st Platoon from North Canton, Ohio.

A zone reconnaissance usually involves a unit conducting a general investigation of a region to gather information on the overall situation there.  A route reconnaissance requires the unit to collect detailed information in an area to determine its potential use for military vehicle traffic.  

Marines are required to collect and classify soil samples, measure critical turns in roadways, determine the capacity of bridges and search for alternate fording sites of rivers and streams.

“These recons are important because the higher-ups use them to make plans,” said Cpl. Peter D. Virtue, a 24-year-old scout from Denair, Calif.  “The big wigs may make a mission and instead of using the big highway as the main avenue of approach to the objective, they may want secondaries.” 

Throughout the mission, the Marines stayed on the look out for overhangs, sharp turns or other obstacles that could possibly slow down or prevent units from moving through an area. 

Digital photographs were also taken during the mission to provide military planners with up-to-date visual imagery.

All of the collected information goes into an engineering report and sent to higher headquarters.   

“We learned how to do all this stuff in LAV Leader’s Course, but it’s been a while,” Simon added.