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Marines repel attack; eliminate, detain insurgents in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province

18 Jul 2006 | Sgt. Roe F. Seigle

Staff Sgt. Andrew Messuri says gunfire from an AK-47 sounds like firecrackers popping off. He should know – the 29-year-old and his Marines were recently attacked by insurgents brandishing AK-47s.

Messuri and nine other Marines from the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion were guarding an observation point in this region of western Al Anbar Province, Iraq, July 9, when a band of heavily-armed insurgents attacked the post for the second time in a month.

Messuri, a native of Camby, Ore., and a squad leader with the battalion’s Company C, says the last time his Marines were attacked, the insurgents escaped.

Not this time.

During a 15-minute gunfight, the Marines eliminated six insurgents and later captured four. 

“My initial reaction was ‘here we go again,’” said Messuri, who deployed to Iraq in support of the Hawaii-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in March. “This time the insurgents were not lucky enough to escape.”

The Marines’ mission that day wasn’t difficult – watch vehicles on a roadway near their combat outpost here, and keep a look-out for any suspicious activity, said Messuri, an 11-year Marine Corps veteran. 

Though not the first time insurgents have attacked U.S. forces head-on in this region, it’s not a regular occurrence, either.

As the Marines were manning their positions and drinking water, trying to stay cool in the 110-degree heat, a pickup truck came to a stop on a road near the Marines’ post, said Messuri. Several young men jumped out and opened fire on the Marines, according to Messuri. The Marines returned fire with their rifles and a machine gun.

A second car arrived on the scene. More insurgents spilled out of that vehicle, and they also shot at the Marines. One insurgent aimed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher at the Marines, said Pfc. Aaron Adrian, 29, a native of Salina, Kan. 

“We concentrated our fire on the man with the RPG and he was never able to fire it,” said Adrian, an Amphibious Assault Vehicle crewman who was at the observation point that day.  “He never got to fire it before he was eliminated.”

At one point in the firefight, Adrian was pinned down with gunfire and another Marine, Lance Cpl. Eric Watson, 22, ran through a hail of gunfire to help Adrian get out of harm’s way, said Watson.

“I just wanted to make sure that one of my fellow Marines did not get hurt,” said Watson, a native of Duluth, Ga., and an AAV crewman.  “I feared the worst because there were rounds kicking up dirt all around him.”

As the Marines fought back, they reported their situation to their command post only a few miles away. Shortly thereafter, more Marines arrived on scene to help Messuri’s crew. 

However, the brave and heavily armed Marines had, for the most part, eliminated the threat, said Messuri. 

The Marines gave chase to the remaining insurgents who were not eliminated. They surrendered immediately to the Marines, who took them to a detention facility. The Marines also obtained the insurgents’ weapons, and a video camera, which was used to film the attack. 

The Marines believe the same insurgents were responsible for the first attack last month.  

About a week after the recent attack, an improvised explosive device was placed in the vicinity of the combat outpost where the Marines live and one Marine received minor wounds to his left arm. 

“All they accomplished was making me want to fight (the insurgents) even harder,” said Cpl. Gabriel Lucero, 21, minutes after he was struck by shrapnel from the IED blast.  “I am going to stay here and fight the insurgents until it is time for us to come home.  They do not scare me.”

But the Marines aren’t alone in their fight against the insurgency – several Iraqi Police officers fresh out of the police academy in Baghdad arrived in Dulab to live and train with the Marines. 

The Marines patrol the village night and day with Iraqi police officers leading the patrols through Dulab’s dusty and bomb-ridden streets.  During these patrols, the policemen are learning how to effectively patrol the village and interact with locals, said Gunnery Sgt. Peter Hart, 32, a platoon sergeant with C Co.

“The policemen are making significant amounts of progress everyday with the Marines,” said Hart.  “Within a month of them getting here, they are taking the lead in the patrols.”

The Marines, who have spent the past four months providing security in this region, are more than halfway done with their seven-month deployment. They’re scheduled to return to the U.S. in October, and will be replaced by another U.S. military unit. 

Email Sgt. Seigle at: seiglemf@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil.