CAMP HURRICANE POINT, Iraq -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment - along with elements of the Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team - battled back anti- Iraqi fighters in Ar Ramadi July 21. It was the latest in a series of street battles in which Marines responded to ambushes in the city.
Marines and soldiers defeated an estimated force of 75-100 enemy, wounding 17 and capturing another 25. An accurate number of enemy killed was impossible to verify. Marines and soldiers sustained 14 wounded, none that were life-threatening and 10 of those returned to duty the same day.
At about 3 p.m. anti- Iraqi fighters detonated an improvised explosive device near a convoy of Marines traveling near Saddam's Mosque and firing rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. Marines called for support from the quick reaction force.
While the QRF drew closer to the objective, the AIF detonated a vehicle-borne explosive. The explosion startled the Marines meant to reinforce those under fire in the city, but didn't stop them. Several civilians, however, were killed by the blast.
"We got out of the vehicles and started looking for targets and made sure everyone was okay," said Lance Cpl. Mathew L. Brown, a 20-year-old machine gunner for Weapons Company from Hillsdale, Mich. "Then we got back in and started pushing towards Saddam's Mosque."
They encountered a fierce fight. They found themselves in the middle of a hail of bullets, RPGs and more homemade bombs.
"Once we got there, an improvised explosive device went off in front of my vehicle," Brown explained. "An RPG hit a wall right next to our truck and we got out and started suppressing."
Marines ran toward the source of the fire, weapons on all sides blazing.
"While we were still moving we kicked open our doors and started firing at buildings we thought we were taking fire from," said Cpl. Jared H. Mckenzie, a 22-year-old squad leader for Weapons Company.
Mckenzie jumped out of the vehicle, directing the gunner in his vehicle to kill the enemy hiding out in a furniture store.
"While we were engaged there, there were two big explosions," Mckenzie said. "They were shooting rifle rockets at us and my gunner received flash burn from the rocket. It just missed me by a couple feet."
Brown took over for the gunner who received flash burn.
"I jumped up on the gun and started reloading," Brown said. "It was hard to hear if we were receiving any small arms over all the explosions. The gunner in the vehicle in front of me said we were receiving contact. I started looking around and seeing all the impacts of the rounds bouncing off the cement around us."
Brown gripped his weapon and began blasting away at the enemy, not stopping until the clicks of ricocheting rounds and muzzle flashes stopped.
Overhead air support moved on to cover the Marines as they swept through searching out the remnants of the attackers.
During the sweeps the Marines discovered another vehicle-borne explosive they detonated with a TOW missile. Soldiers recovered another homemade bomb in a burlap sack, made from a 155 mm artillery round. Abandoned grenade launchers and enemy machine gun and grenades, two anti-tank mines, a homemade rocket launcher and ammunition were also recovered.
For the Marines who call themselves the "Magnificent Bastards," this firefight was one of many. They have been actively engaged against enemy forces since the beginning of deployment. They fought against terrorists in April, fights that were overshadowed by actions in Fallujah.
"This is my sixth firefight," said Lance Cpl. Blake A. Pepper, 19, a gunner with Weapons Company. "Our platoon as a whole is really good at reacting towards the enemy."
Despite their baptisms by fire, Marines still enter every engagement with a sense of wariness. They don't take their string of successes against the anti-Iraqi forces for granted.
"I am not going to say that I am not afraid when I go out there," Mckenzie explained. "I am always aware of what might happen. But after the first round goes off, I'm not scared anymore because I know where it is actually coming from."