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‘America’s Battalion’ makes big catch

16 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment dealt the insurgency a heavy blow in their area of operations.

Marines from F Company serving detained a high-value individual and 70 others in Saqlawiyah Sept. 14.

Marines patrolled the countryside of Saqlawiyah in the early part of the day to gain information on insurgents rumored to be in the area. They went to homes in the area to try and get help from the locals.

“The mission was to roll down west Saqlawiyah, show our presence and find improvised explosive devices,” said Cpl. Nathaniel A. Clough, a 21-year-old squad leader from Kennebunk, Maine.

Marines from 3rd Platoon sat with locals to talk about problems in the area and insurgents. They invited Marines into their homes and shared information. They offered Marines chai, an Iraqi tea, and discussed the insurgency in the area.

“It’s good that people actually care,” Clough said. “They share their problems with us and sometimes give us ‘intel’.”

Marines received a call over the radio about a known insurgent believed to be in the area. They were instructed to wait for supporting units before moving into the location.

The word to move in came over the radio minutes later and they sped to the area.

The units arrived simultaneously and began to search houses in the area. Marines moved through every house systematically. They entered rooms and checked all possible hiding areas and moved on to the next until they reached the rooftop of a house. On the rooftop, they moved to every corner to ensure no one was hiding there.

The searches did not turn up anything, but they did not go without incident.

An Iraqi male was seen running into some bushes during the search. Marines ran to where he was spotted but did not catch him. He later returned to the scene and told Marines he ran because he was scared. He was questioned and released.

“It went well,” Lance Cpl. Derrick W. Bolden, a 19-year-old machine gunner from Van, W.Va. “The mission was accomplished with no injuries and everything ran smoothly.”

Information came through the radio again as Marines completed the search. Another location was given for the wanted insurgent.

When Marines arrived to the new area they were amazed by the scene. There were 71 Iraqi males seated in the front yard of a home.  Another group of Marines was already on scene, keeping watch over the crowd.  Women and children were at the back of the house.

“It’s crazy to see that many guys together,” Leonard said. “It makes you wonder what they were doing.”

Marines searched the home and found weapons. They patted the men down from head-to-toe to ensure that the men weren’t hiding anything.

A gunshot rang out from the backyard while Marines were searching the men. Marines rushed through muddy grass to the area they heard the gunshot to track down a shooter. They crouched behind an armored vehicle in the yard and along the sides of the house.  Marines peered into the darkness to search for the shooter or any movement that might give him away. Marines in an armored vehicle circled the area with a spotlight. No one was hurt, but they did not find a shooter.

Marines found an insurgent leader in their area of operation in the group. There were also 13 other known insurgents in the group.

Marines felt the raid’s result put fear into insurgents.

“It tells them to watch out,” said Lance Cpl. Mathew S. Leonard, a 20-year-old rifleman from Northport, Fla. “We’re coming for them and we’ll get them.”

Intelligence from Iraqi civilians helped Marines accomplish the mission. The help of the Iraqi locals is crucial for Marines to succeed. The capture of the insurgent leader is a testament to how much trust Iraqi locals have in Marines.

Clough added the insurgent leader wouldn’t have been caught “If the locals in the area didn’t share information.”