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Sgt. Cody Morgan, 24, from Tombstone, Ariz., who is an infantry Marine with Mobile Assault Platoon, Regimental Combat Team 5, posts security as vehicles approach the vehicle checkpoints on a highway in al-Anbar province, Iraq, Aug. 15. The Marines with the platoon, known as Grizzly Mobile , usually run escort missions for command staff within Regimental Combat Team 5. However, the platoon recently assisted 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, RCT-5 in desert operations that included vehicle checkpoints, patrols and census gathering.::r::::n::

Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

Grizzly Mobile combs the desert

11 Sep 2008 | by Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

An asset that has always been in the Marine Corps’ arsenal is a Marine’s willingness and capability to serve in various roles.

The Marines within Regimental Combat Team 5’s Mobile Assault Platoon, known as Grizzly Mobile, usually serve as security and escort command, staff and priority personnel to key locations within RCT-5’s area of operation.

Recently however, several Marines in the platoon were picked to assist 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, RCT-5 with operations in al-Anbar province.

“We patrolled over the open desert and highway for about six weeks,” said Staff Sgt. Jason E. Hooker, 28, the platoon commander with Grizzly Mobile.

“We would randomly set up snap vehicle check points and blocking positions to search for drugs or oil being smuggled,” said Hooker, who is from Crestview, Fla. “Drugs and oil are a big concern because that is the means by which they fund the terrorist activities.”

By setting up random checkpoints, the Marines were able to search vehicles that were trying to avoid the regular checkpoints. The Grizzly Mobile Marines also supported 2nd LAR Bn. by filling in where needed.

“At times we were setting up screening positions or blocking positions for anyone trying to bypass the checkpoint,” said Cpl. Hunter R. Smith, 24, a vehicle commander with Grizzly Mobile from Chandler, Ariz. “It was mission dependant; whatever they needed us to do, we did.”

In addition to helping with vehicle searches, the Marines with Grizzly Mobile would also patrol the desert and conduct censuses from some of the smaller shepherd communities.

“We did some census patrols in some small villages to find out information like how many males (lived) in the household, what they did for money, tribal affiliations, concerns and stuff like that,” said Smith.

The information the Marines collected would help them on future patrols as they searched for weapon caches and other signs of insurgent activity.

“One of the locals out in the desert provided a lot of great intelligence,” said Smith. “He told us about some unexploded ordinance and brought us out to the location.”

The operation tempo gave Grizzly Mobile many nights under the desert sky, but it was nothing most of them had not experienced before. Most of the Marines in the platoon are infantry Marines with previous combat experience.

“We would go out for three or four days at a time and operate from sunrise to sunset with occasional night patrols,” said Smith. “At night we would set up in our watch on the vehicles and maintain our security.”

With their increased troop strength, 2nd LAR Bn. was able to extend their areas of searching. This allowed for the Marines to detain several individuals, one of which was wanted for insurgent activity.

“We were checking out an area of interest when we saw a guy we had stopped earlier,” said Smith.

After searching the vehicle, the Marines found further evidence of criminal activity and were able to detain the individual.  The detainee was later found to be wanted for insurgent activity.

The Marines with Grizzly Mobile are currently back at their old job of conducting escort missions for the regiment. They are not sure if they will get another supporting mission, but they are grateful for the chance one they got.

“It was good to get outside the wire and get dirty again,” said Hooker.