CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, teamed up with Iraqi Special Forces for the first time ever in Operation Showdown Aug. 18, to search for weapons caches and terrorists in Ar Ramadi.
A platoon of Iraqi Special forces from the Iraqi National Guard, commonly referred to as "Showanis," were divided up between each Marine squad in Company E and G.
"It was an awesome opportunity," said Capt. Kelly Royer, Company E's commanding officer. "It was the first time we actually got to do a joint operation in the five and a half months that we have been here. I was extremely impressed with their performance."
They set out early in the morning to secure a large area in Ar Ramadi, alongside elements from the Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team. After the area was secured, they began to sweep for weapons and enemy insurgents who have been linked to many attacks in the city.
"We have been frequently getting mortared from somebody in that area we swept today," said Staff Sgt. Joseph M. Martin, Company E's platoon sergeant. "If we take their ammo away from them, they have nothing to shoot at us."
Since it was the first time the Showanis were able to participate in an operation like this here, the Marines showed them how to search a house and look for illegal weapons.
"We conducted some rehearsals and training with them yesterday prior to the operation," Martin said. "And when we took them out today we were like a big brother. We showed them how we do things and what works for us, and how it will probably work for them too."
The Marines and Iraqis discovered several weapons caches, including a crate buried in the ground containing 18 AK-47s, nine RPK machine guns and three improvised explosive devices.
"Echo Company also found, buried in a barn, a 160 mm mortar, three 3.5 inch rockets, one PG9 anti-tank rocket, and fifty fuses for the 160 mm mortar," Royer added. "They all looked like they have been rigged as improvised explosive devices."
Many of the Ar Ramadi citizens felt more comfortable having another Iraqi search their homes, and were thankful for the Showanis presence.
"It's easier to have someone with us that speaks the lingo, and doesn't have the language barrier that we do," explained Sgt. Jose N. Vasquez, squad leader. "While we (Marines) searched the house, they would talk to the head of the household and ask them right away if they had any illegal contraband and the household felt more inclined to bring us what ever they had. It made our jobs a lot easier."
Another benefit of including Iraqi forces on the operation was that Ar Ramadi citizens got to see an Iraqi face on the country's security force.
"The main concern for the Iraqi people is to see the Iraqi Civil Defense Forces take over Iraq," said Habib Mtanious, a translator on the operation. "The people appreciate what the U.S. has done for them, but in the end they want the Iraqi forces to control Iraq."
The Marines with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment feel confident in the Showanis' abilities and plan to involve them with their operations in the future.
"It was good to work with an Iraqi Force," Vasquez said. "It makes our job a lot easier when we work with them. These guys had a lot of heart and showed a lot of courage today. We look forward to working with them in the future."