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Dragoons swoop in for action

6 Apr 2006 | 1st Lt. Nathan Braden

The concepts of speed and surprise are as old as warfare itself, and one unit proves they are still as effective as ever.

The Marines of D Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion used these concepts to conduct a cordon and search operation in the vicinity of the Thar Thar Dam April 6.

“We are going into the enemy’s rear area for a raid-style cordon-and-search in a typical, traditional LAR mission,” said Capt. Hunter “Ripley” Rawlings, the company’s commanding officer while briefing his men prior to the operation.

Reports of insurgents waging a murder-and-intimidation campaign against residents in this rural area north of Fallujah prompted the operation.

“The violence undermines the new Iraqi government and our mission here as well,” said 1st Lt. Patrick H. Murray, the 26-year-old company executive officer from Charlottesville, Va.  “It’s important to gain the confidence of the people and let them know we are here to protect them and keep them safe.”

The area lies far to the north of major population centers and has a sparse coalition presence. 

“We bring to the fight the ability to just show-up with ease with lots of firepower and let people know we are taking care of bad guys,” Murray said. 

The company left Camp Fallujah the day before the operation to spend the night closer to their objective.  Marines awoke before dawn, loaded their vehicles and were ready to roll out of the assembly area at first light.

The company headquarters established a forward command operations center while 1st and 2nd Platoons cordoned the objective area and searched for insurgents and weapons caches.

Two AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters flew a pattern above the area during the operation as a show of force and to provide observation from the sky.

The operation resulted in the detention of eight suspected insurgents and the discovery of a weapons cache consisting of four AK-47 assault rifles.

“I saw some guys standing around when we came down the dam,” said Pfc. Jonathan G. Almeida, a 20-year-old scout from Beeville, Texas.  “We searched them, they had fake ID’s and thought they could possibly be insurgents.” 

Marines carefully filled out detention paperwork to fully document the circumstances of the detentions.  The paperwork will be used by higher headquarters to review individual detention cases and ensure there is enough cause to keep them detained. 

“We have to process them properly to ensure they don’t get away with what they’re doing,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew M. Honer, a 20-year-old armorer from Phoenix. 

The mission was one of the first company-sized operations the Marines have conducted since arriving in Iraq last month.

“We definitely disrupted their movements, so I consider that mission success, not to mention all the detainees we got,” said Rawlings, a 34-year-old from Boulder, Colo.  “Everybody did a great job.  In fast, out fast, kicking ass in the middle, that’s the Dragoon style.” 

“It was done the way it should have been done,” Almeida added.  “Everything went smoothly and nobody got hurt.”