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'America’s Battalion' shows insurgents they’re not intimidated

30 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran

Marines from “America’s Battalion” sent insurgents a clear message:  shoot at them and they’ll mess up your day.

Marines from F Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment conducted a sweep through a storage area and the surrounding area in an effort to find weapons or improvised explosive device-making materials Sept. 29. The search was in response to a Marine being shot there the day before.

The battalion is on duty with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“We had a Marine shot in the area the day before so we wanted to sweep through it,” said Cpl. Paul Kaplon, a 21-year-old team leader from St. James, N.Y. “We wanted to see if we could find anything.”

Marines arrived at the storage area and set up security in every direction from the building. They closed all entrances to ensure no suicide vehicle-borne IEDs could be launched against them. Different obstacles were put in front of the entrances to slow insurgents’ efforts to enter the garage depot.

The systematic search of the garages began once security was established. Two groups of Marines cleared all the garages. Each group started at one end of the storage area and worked its way to the center. Marines took tremendous swings at locks or tried to pry them open. Every garage was inspected and cleared.

The efforts were worth it.

They found a large cache of IED-making materials, said Cpl. Justin L. Clough, a 21-year-old squad leader from Kennebunk, Maine. The materials found were what Marines expected to find in the garages.

The discovery fueled Marines to search harder. The search moved to the vehicles around the garage. The interior of every vehicle was searched. Marines found more locked doors while searching the vehicles and those rooms were checked.

The crack of a gunshot sounded while Marines were conducting the searches. Marines took cover and searched for the shooter.

“They reacted the way they should,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathon F. Yule, a 19-year-old assaultman from Plymouth, Mass. “They took cover, looked for the direction of the threat and tried to find suspects.”

Marines providing security north of the building reported they saw a white vehicle fleeing after the shot, and so a search for vehicles fitting the description began.

“We set up a snap vehicle checkpoint,” Clough said. “A white truck was stopped and we questioned the driver. We also checked his hands for gun residue.”

Marines also stopped other vehicles in search of witnesses. Iraqi men were searched for weapons and then questioned about the incident.

Marines focused the search for a gunman on the houses in the area because they did not find anyone in the VCP.

“Once we had a general idea of where the shot came from we went and searched the surrounding area,” Clough said. “We went into houses in search of weapons. We also wanted to ask the people if they heard anything or saw anything.”

Marines searched houses in the immediate area. One squad made its way to a house, while another provided security. Marines cleared all the rooms in every house in search of weapons.

Marines moved back to the garage facility after they finished searching the nearby houses. Marines stayed at the garage after the searches to see if any insurgents would attempt to attack them. They also double-checked everything, so nothing was left unchecked.

The Marines were pleased with the results of the search.

“We got some IED materials out of the insurgents’ hands,” Clough said. “We also showed the insurgents that we will stand up to them and fight.”