GHARMAH, Iraq -- A sniper team from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment’s B Company collected several confirmed kills and spoiled an insurgent ambush during one recent day’s fighting here.
The team stepped up to even the odds and take out insurgents when B Company ran into a series of several firefights in this small city north of Fallujah. They are on duty in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.
“It’s very important to the grunts here to feel they have overwatch looking out for them,” said Cpl. Jacob D. Betts, a 30-year-old radio operator from Tyro, Kan.
The snipers watched a road in this small city north of Fallujah when the attack started. The insurgent attack, meant to kill and drive Marines out of the area, was turned on its’ heels when snipers drew their crosshairs on their targets.
“It was chaos when the explosions were heard,” said Lance Cpl. Patrick T. Nolan, the 19-year-old security team leader from Fayetteville, N.C. “People on the streets were running away from the sounds of gunfire.”
The snipers oriented themselves to the sounds of the fight when one insurgent carrying an AK-47 assault rifle ran clear into the snipers’ line of fire. The Marines shared glances and instinctively knew what had to be done.
“The first guy came in to view wearing what looked like a black ninja suit,” Betts explained. “Once he was in sight, a wave of insurgents followed.”
The team leader led the snipers’ repulsion with the first shot cracking through the air. Volley after volley echoed from the muzzles of the sniper’s rifles. Their aim was true. Insurgents were dropping in their tracks, never knowing what hit them.
“Some fell where they were, but some kept moving,” Nolan said. “Later the grunts on the ground found adrenaline and syringes where the insurgents were.”
The afternoon’s fight was hardly over. With the sound of the last shot ringing in their ear, the team of Marines spied another danger lurking. Several insurgents, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles were waiting to ambush the company’s quick reaction force with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
“We saw another group of insurgents preparing what looked like a VBIED,” said Cpl. Bryan J. Calderon, the 22-year-old assistant team leader from Everett, Wash.
The snipers turned the tables on the insurgents. The team split, sending Marines off to kill the insurgent attackers while the rest remained at their posts. It was a chance to even the score.
“The insurgents usually surprise us with attacks,” Nolan said. “This time we got the jump on them.”
Marines closed in on the waiting insurgents and fired. In the melee, insurgents fled, dropping their weapons and scattering into the city.
“We did good,” Nolan said. “We stepped up the ambush.”
The team searched nearby houses to ensure they were clear. Once the fight was over, the Marines assessed the aftermath.
“When the day was done we had five confirmed kills,” said Pfc. Craig J. Bullinger, a 20-year-old team assistant from Howell, Mich. “We know we wounded others, but we didn’t find them.”
For this team of scout snipers, being patient and in the right place at the right time proved to be rewarding. Along with the insurgents killed that day, the Marines came back with several detainees and captured weapons.
“I am just glad we were there,” Nolan said. “I am glad these guys won’t be hurting anyone else anymore.”