Featured News

Life heats up for combined anti-armor team

11 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment's Combined Anti-Armor Team knows that in combat, it's a lot of skill and a little bit of luck that makes success.

"We'd been at the same spot for four days.  The call came over the radio for us to move, one of our companies needed out help, so we packed up and left," said Lance Cpl. Devon J. Inman, a translator from Nashville, Tenn. 

The 27 year-old Marine said they couldn't have moved sooner. 

"We'd been receiving mortar fire every day, but it was never real close to us," Inman explained.  "As we left we saw mortar rounds come down right on top of where our vehicles had been."

With a quick stop at the forward operating base for supplies, the team went to help their comrades in need.

"As a CAAT team, our mission is to support the line companies.  We can move quickly and bring a lot of firepower to the fight," said Gunnery Sgt. Barry R. Bartasavich, the platoon sergeant for CAAT Team Red.  The 37-year-old Euboif, Pa. Marine added, "We're basically a 9-1-1 force for the battalion."

Fulfilling their role as an emergency response force, the vehicles raced to Ludahfiya, where one of the companies was reportedly receiving small arms fire.  On the way to the scene, the Marines prepared mentally for what was sure to be a chaotic scene when they arrived.

"We were all pumped up, but when we got there everything was over," Inman said  "The company had some detainees and we were ordered to block traffic coming into the city and search vehicles leaving for weapons."

Disappointed as the team was, they knew they were playing a critical role in the operation.

"Someone had to do it and we needed to make sure no enemies could get into the city to help their buddies," Inman said.

Still, the action in the area wasn't over.  Marines could hear mortar rounds impacting in the distance and small arms fire flare up and die down.  The surrounding palm tree groves made it difficult to determine where the firefight was, but the radio inside each humvee kept them updated.

The radio sputtered with transmissions from the various companies, reporting their situations.  Some messages would be simple radio checks from units.  Others would be quick and urgent, the voice speaking quickly, reporting the unit under fire.  Other CAAT teams were sent to respond.  Marines of CAAT Red were anxious, wanting to help their comrades in need. 

"Your adrenaline gets pretty high out here, and the Marines love it," Bartasavich said.  "They thrive on firing their weapons."

When Ludahfiya had been searched, the team was ordered to link up with surrounding units and head back to their base.  The team lived in the field for days and was ready to get some much-needed rest, but was needed elsewhere.

"Just as we were on our way back, we got orders that the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps was under fire at the same checkpoint we'd left just that morning," Inman said.  "I was looking forward to a shower and more than three hours of sleep at a time, but they needed us out there.  As a translator, I was looking forward to speaking just English for a while."

Tension built among the Marines as they wove through the dark streets of Mahmudiya, on their way to another call.

Staff Sgt. Richard P. Lawson, a vehicle commander for the team, explained calls for help from the ICDC aren't uncommon.  Sometimes situations Marines take for granted shake up the fledgling force. 

The East Bridge Water, Mass. Marine added, "When we arrived, it was just what I thought - a vehicle had attacked them a while ago and they wanted Marines there to help in case it happened again."

Setting their vehicles up on both sides of the road, the CAAT team settled in for another night at the checkpoint.

"It's pretty uncomfortable sleeping in your flak jacket and helmet, but that's what we have to do in case we get mortared again," Inman said.  "If you're as tired as we were, it doesn't really matter, though."

Marines spent the night peering through night-vision goggles, scanning the area in front of their guns.

"We've had vehicles drive through here and shoot at us, so we have to be ready," Bartasavich said.  "One of our responsibilities here is to make sure no one gets through to attack the base.  So it isn't just our Marines we're protecting, but everyone back there too."

The night passed uneventfully for the Marines.  The occasional mortar blast in the distance and the constant barking from the dogs in the neighborhood was all they heard.  Packing up in the morning, they searched the surrounding fields to find mortar impacts.

"We found a few holes in the ground that could have been the marks a mortar base plate leaves when it's used," Inman said. 

They discovered little else when they spoke to a local farmer who could only describe what he heard.

Translating for his unit, Inman said the man couldn't see anything from his farm due to a wall surrounding it, but he did hear the mortars explode the last few nights.

The Marines returned to their outposts, tired, haggard and still facing a list of chores before they'd finally rest.

"We always clean and repair our vehicles and gear first," Inman said.  "After that, we take care of ourselves."