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Battalion kicks off deployment with successful raid

2 Jul 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

After arriving in Iraq only a week and a half ago, the "Thundering Third" has joined the fight of restoring security in Al Anbar Province, conducting a battalion-sized raid July 1.

Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment cordoned As-Serifah, a village east of Kharma.  The raid proved successful.  Marines detained high-value targets and uncovered stores of weapons and improvised explosive devices.

The battalion only recently arrived in Iraq to replace 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, scheduled to redeploy soon.

"We were fortunate to detain a number of suspected terrorists on our wanted list," said Lt. Col. Willard A. Buhl, the 41-year-old battalion commander from Los Gratos, Calif. "We also found the largest series of buried caches of IED-making materials that our engineer platoon has seen in Iraq since February."

A detachment of Marines from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, armed with metal detectors, discovered a large number of rocket-propelled grenades, crew-served and specialty weapons.

"Fifty-one 107 mm rockets, enemy sniper rifles and a silenced submachine gun were found," Buhl said.  "We found 15 (rocket-propelled grenade launchers), a rifle and other weapons," added Cpl. Leon A. Rodrigo, a 21-year-old combat engineer with Company K from Pesmo Beach, Calif. "My team just gets on line with the metal detectors and start sweeping the entire area."

Rodrigo said that about 15 different weapons caches were discovered in As-Serifah.

The hamlet only appeared innocent on the outside populated with families, farm animals and plush green gardens and crops.  That view changes when Marines began digging for munitions.
"The cluster of family dwellings was identified by people who were aware of terrorist activity in their neighborhood and wanted Coalition Forces to stop it," Buhl said.

The tip gleaned from local Iraqis was the key to the raid's success, Buhl said.  It was that sort of intelligence that drove the Marines' training and which continues to drive operations.

"We received Intel about this place, and some of the locals have been real helpful pointing fingers," said Staff Sgt. Chad A. Luers, the 31-year-old Weapons Platoon Sergeant, Company K, and from Wayland, Iowa.

"This raid went very well because we confiscated many weapons that could've been used against our fellow Marines," said Pfc. Patrick C. McCormick, a 19-year-old radio operator from Faribault, Minn., with 2nd Platoon, Company K.

The battalion's Marines were excited to start off the deployment with a success.  Buhl said his Marines and sailors are well trained, highly motivated and focused on mission accomplishment.

"There are people who would do harm to the new government and Coalition Forces, and there are many more who want peace and prosperity in Iraq," Buhl said.

McCormick said he was anxious and ready to capture more weapons and terrorists.

"It feels good to capture high-up insurgents and weapons because now there's less of a chance of our brothers being killed," McCormick added.