CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq -- Six hundred Marines, 350 Iraqi Police Officers and 80 Iraqi National Guardsmen braved suicide bombers, mortars, roadside blasts and small arms fire as they cordoned and searched most of the houses in Lutafiyah Sept. 4.
The Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and members of the Iraqi Security Forces conducted the searches because of recent insurgent activity in the area.
"We were there to disrupt insurgent operations ... (they) are an enemy we have been fighting since we arrived and have caused casualties for the Marines," said Maj. Brian W. Neil, operations officer and native of Middletown, Conn. "We empowered the Iraqi security forces by using them in the lead with us behind them. The (captured insurgents) gave us information which will aid us in future operations."
The operation began with 2/2 picking up Iraqi Police vehicles and dividing them up among the three rifle companies. From there, each company was staged at their section of the city and waited for the operation to begin.
"Before it happened, I figured it was going to be a smooth sweep. They're pretty cowardly in Lutafiyah and not the type of enemy to openly attack us," said Lance Cpl. Richard A. French, 23, machine gunner and native of Raleigh, N.C. "I knew we had a lot of support if anything did happen. Once we figured out that the screeching sound in the sky wasn't a rocket, we were glad to have air support if we needed it."
The three companies began searching each section of the city in unison, aided by 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment to the south. Weapons such as AK-47s and mortar-firing equipment were collected from the houses but the insurgents weren't going to give them up without a fight.
"I didn't know what it was when it happened. I just heard two explosions that were loud enough to blow out the windows of the building I was in," said Lance Cpl. Dennis M. Hill, 22, a rifleman with Company G and native of Huntington, W.Va. "There were a lot of Iraqi police cars parked on the road. If it wasn't for them being there, those two vehicle-born (Improvised Explosive Devices) would have killed Company G."
The two VBIEDs were the most resistance the battalion faced during the day.
In other parts of the city, roadside bombs were discovered and dismantled. Small arms fire was heard in different parts of the city but the only attacks made were on Iraqi Police.
"I can only say we should have done it a lot earlier, if we had we might have caught more," said 1st Sgt. Billy R. Hargrove, 39, the company first sergeant for Company F and native of New Orleans. "We got a lot of weapons and a lot of people. We came prepared and I think we did a good job."