RAMADI, Iraq --
RAMADI, IRAQ (May 16, 2008) - For most individuals, Spring Break is a time to take a break from studying or work, head out to the beach and get a bronze tan while enjoying the sun and sandy beach.
However, for the Marines with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, Spring Break 2008 was a time to search for insurgents in the gleaming sun, hold security and perimeter watch during a gusty sandstorm, and concentrate on the mission at hand.
The battalion recently wrapped up a four-day joint operation May 12-15 near Lake Tharthar, al-Anbar Province dubbed Operation Spring Break. The operation, similar to the multi-unit training the Marines practiced while undergoing Mojave Viper, a 30-day training exercise in Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., involved more than five different elements including the highly-trained 2nd Brigade Iraqi Army Scouts; Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided Gunners; American and Iraqi Navy; Company B, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 and various aviation units.
“The Marines did excellent with this being their first major operation in quite some time,” said Maj. Jeff McCormack, the operations officer for 1st Bn., 9th Marines. “The Marines had minimal experience operating with helicopters and it was their first time working with the Iraqi Army, but they were able to put it all together in a short amount of time and perfectly execute the mission.”
The purpose of the operation was to disrupt suspected movement from insurgents in the area. The south side of Lake Tharthar has seen a sparse amount of interaction with Coalition forces since 2004, while the north has been more heavily patrolled.
“No one has been on the south side of Lake Tharthar for almost two years and there was a possibility insurgents were using the area as a safe haven and transportation hub,” McCormack said. “The mission was to disrupt movement and also establish relationships with the local fisherman.”
While operating in the area, the Marines did not find any signs of insurgent activity as the presence of Iraqi and Coalition forces have been proven to be a deterrent for the insurgents. However, they were able to capitalize on being in the area by building relationships with the locals.
“The results (of the operation) were quite successful,” McCormack said. “We found a weapons cache and established ties with the local fisherman. Some of the fisherman said they’ve never seen an American or hadn’t seen an American since 2004. Everybody was very happy to see the Marines and Iraqi Army working together. So now, we feel when we go back there, we will have some locals that we can go talk to.”
The raid also proved the Iraqi Army and Navy’s ability to conduct military operations alongside Marines while also highlighting their high-professionalism while on a mission.
“This operation proved that the Marines can work with the Iraqi Army in a large-scale operation and also work with the Iraqi Navy to deny insurgents freedom of movement on the waters,” McCormack added.