Marines battle back enemy after ambush in Ar Ramadi

17 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Sgt. John S. Anthony, section leader with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, said the city of Ar Ramadi was like a ghost town July 14, and that's never a good sign.

Anti-Iraqi fighters detonated an improvised explosive device near Saddam's Mosque in the city, hitting a convoy from Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team.  Anthony and other Marines from 2nd Battalion's Mobile Assault Company and Company G were called to reinforce the soldiers.

"Devil 6," the 1st BCT convoy carrying the brigade's commander, was attacked with the homemade bomb at about 12:30 p.m. Shortly after, anti-Iraqi forces opened up on the soldiers with rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other small arms.

The attack occurred along main supply route Michigan, which is an important transportation route for Coalition Forces operating in and around Ar Ramadi.

"We were escorting our battalion commander to the hospital when we heard on the radio that Devil 6 got hit," said Staff Sgt. Michael P. Drake, platoon sergeant for Mobile Assault Platoon 1. "The commander wanted to go over there and see what was going on."

Drake and his 27-man platoon loaded up their vehicles and drove about a half mile toward the firefight, but they didn't make it to Devil 6 right away.

"There was no traffic,' said Anthony from Roseburg, Ore.  "There were no people. It was just dead."

The lack of people in the city's busy industrial area was a telltale sign something was
wrong.

Drake knew something "very bad" was going to happen as they approached Devil 6's location because the road had been blocked off with concrete blocks and tires.

"We knew we were about to get ambushed," the Charleston, Ill., Marine said. "We just didn't know where it was going to come from."

The Marines could hear gunfire coming from a little further up Michigan, but they couldn't see any enemy activity. They continued to push forward and that's when Drake said all hell broke loose. Enemy fighters began firing at the platoon.

"We couldn't tell where the firing was coming from because the sound ricocheted off the walls and buildings," Anthony said. "It was like it was coming from all around."

Immediately, the Marines set up a 360-degree security perimeter and searched for enemy positions on the rooftops.

"I pulled my vehicle off the road into a parking lot and about thirty seconds later, I saw seven or eight explosions where we had just been," Anthony explained. "That's when I saw two guys looking over a wall on a roof across the street."

Anthony used the scope on his rifle to make sure the men were armed. The two men were ducking in and out of a bunker fortified by sandbags.

The gunner on Anthony's vehicle aimed in with his .50-caliber machine gun and "lit up the building." As he sent a wall of lead to the rooftop fighters, the other Marines also laid down suppressive fire with their M-16A4 service rifles.

"They were firing from booby trap holes in the buildings," said Lance Cpl. Justin C. Hairston, heavy machine gunner. "They could see us, but we couldn't see them."

Hairston was manning an M-K19 automatic grenade launcher on top of a humvee. The vehicle's driver positioned the truck so Hairston could get a clear shot of the rooftop.

"It's pretty childish, but it's fun to shoot a Mark 19," he added. "It's cool to see things blow up and catch fire."

Still, Hairston said great power comes with great responsibility.

"When I sit behind the gun, that's a lot of power," Hairston explained.  "I can take a lot of lives, so I have to be careful because I don't want to kill lots of innocent people."

But he had no qualms firing upon the rooftop, which was about 250 yards from where the Marines were positioned. The bunker was destroyed and the ammunition on the roof began to ignite.

As the Marines fought with anti-Iraqi fighters along Michigan, a platoon-sized element from Company G was making its way to the battle. The company was ambushed southeast of where Devil 6 was pinned down. At the same time, a quick reaction force from 1st BCT was also headed to the firefight.

"The worst of the fighting only lasted about thirty minutes," Anthony said. "Maybe it was only fifteen minutes. I really can't remember. Time seems to speed up when you're out there."

By the time the Marines from Company G arrived, most of the fighting had died down, but there was still firing coming from the same building across the street.

The Marines continued to engage the enemy fighters. The Company G Marines then cleared the building.

"Apparently when they went inside, the guys inside put their hands on their heads and gave up pretty fast," Anthony explained. "We put so much firepower into that building
they were scared not to give up."

The Marines detained 15 men who were holed up inside the building. They also found a large cache of weapons, computer gear, body armor and communications equipment.

Twenty-one enemy fighters were killed and four were wounded during the battle.  The Marines and soldiers accomplished all of this without taking any serious casualties.

After the fighting ended, Marines and soldiers spent the next four hours clearing some of the surrounding buildings but found nothing.

They loaded up the detainees and seized weapons and headed back to the camp here.

"When we left that morning, I thought it was going to be just another day escorting the battalion commander around Ramadi," Hairston said. "The guys always hope for a little action when we go out, so it ended up being a pretty good day."