Featured News

OP Phoenix rises again

14 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran

The message 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment was trying to send to insurgents Aug. 14 was clear, “you can’t stop us.”

Marines of Headquarters and Service Company cleaned and demilitarized an observation post in Saqlawiyah formerly known as OP Stature. The clean-up was called Operation Clean Sweep. The new name for the post… OP Phoenix, and like the mythological bird, OP Phoenix rose from the ashes.  The headquarters Marines performed the mission for their fellow Marines in G Company.

“The mission was to demilitarize a residence,” said Capt. Paul C. Teachey, a 31-year-old company commander from Clayton, N.C.  “We also cleaned up debris of a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.”

The observation post was built around an existing Iraqi home, fortified by sandbags and large earthen barriers.  Marines tore down most of the security features they built to start to return it to civilian use.

Marines set up security around the operating post before they got to the business of the clean-up. Humvees with M-240G machine guns mounted on them covered the front of the post, while dismounted Marines covered the rear and the flanks.  Security was important because the area received a lot of sniper and small-arms fire.

“The security was set up fast,” said Lance Cpl. Jeremy C. Hirata, 19-year-old rifleman from Orlando, Fla. “We had the post completely protected from all sides.”

Work began once security was set in place. Marines walked around the post picking up all the trash they found and all the metal on the ground. They carried large pieces of metal, a broken sink, a useless stove, barbed wire and anything else that didn’t work or wasn’t needed.  They loaded the debris on a seven-ton flatbed truck.  

Much of the debris was leftover scraps of the SVBIED that attacked the post more than a week ago.  It was a visible reminder of the dangers that lurked in the region.

“While we cleaned the area we had to worry about sniper fire and small-arms fire,” said Lance Cpl. Rosendy E. Gabriel, a 19-year-old rifleman from Elmont, N.Y. “That made the work more stressful and harder.”

Marines worked quickly. The only trash that remained from the incident was large pieces of the destroyed truck’s engine. Marines also gathered up excess military equipment that could be used elsewhere at other outposts.

Torn sand bags and wrappers from meals, ready-to-eat were emptied and thrown away in trash bags.  They soon found they cleared enough garbage to fill their trash bag, so Marines improvised; they used undamaged sand bags to stuff away trash.

Marines restored the Iraqi home so it was clean for the resident to return. It was a display of gratitude by Marines to be allowed to use the home for security operations.

“We don’t want to make the owner of the home mad,” Gabriel said. “Since we were in his house, I think its right to leave it in good order for him.”

Marines completed the operation in about three hours. They were sweaty and exhausted at the end of the effort.  Marines marveled at their accomplishments.  The final product was a marked improvement over the destruction caused by the suicide bomber.

“The Marines did well,” Teachey said. “They were asked to do it for a company they don’t belong to. They did what they had to – to help their Marines.”