ABU BALI, Iraq – Insurgents in the Abu Bali region were put on notice once that their supposed safe haven was coming to an end. One month ago, Marines from L Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, stormed across the Euphrates River and made a serious dent in the enemy’s capabilities, interdicting logistics nodes.
Since then, terrorists have learned to fear the soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, who have established a security presence in the area.
The Iraqi soldiers began Operation Northern Fury April 13, a 48-hour operation designed to take the fight to the enemy in his comfort zone across a perceived safe buffer, the Euphrates River. The operation was planned and led by the Iraqis, with some advice from the Military Transition Team, a team that originated from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines.
“The whole purpose was to deny the area to insurgents,” said 1st Lt. Geoffrey T. Newton, 34, from Oxford, Miss. “It was a show of force by the Iraqi Army.”
As the early rays of sunlight peeked over the horizon, the joint force departed their patrol base on the northern banks of the Euphrates River. The next 48 hours would be devoted to destroying the enemy’s capability and will to fight. They would find plenty of opposition as the hornets’ nest had been stirred up by the previous operation.
“Since L Company and the IA (Iraqi Army) went through here, it sparked the insurgents and woke them up,” said Gunnery Sgt. Fernando L. Llanos, 33, from Queens, N.Y. “They know it’s not a safe haven for them to be there anymore. When we go out they know they have to fight to keep their assets and caches.”
The combined patrols made a serious dent in the ability of the anti-Iraqi forces to emplace their deadliest weapon: the improvised explosive device, or IED.
“It wasn’t as productive in terms of caches,” said Newton. “We did make contact with the enemy and reduced a lot of his weaponry in the form of IEDs.”
There were some doubts initially about the ability of the IA soldiers to operate for so long during continuous operations, but those fears were quickly laid to rest.
“They did very well,” said Llanos. “They operated for 18 hours (the first day). Normally after seven or eight hours they become less effective, but they just kept on going.”
They normally are unable to operate for a longer periods of time because they often don’t have the logistical setup they need for sustainment.
“They don’t carry any water or food with them,” said Llanos, the advisor for Company 2. “A Marine is going to carry six or seven quarts of water with him and maybe something to snack on like an energy bar. They didn’t carry anything, but they still performed very well.”
However with the help of Marines such as Newton and Llanos, they are learning.
“They are getting better at everything,” Newton added. “They get more confident every day, get better tactically and more independent.”
Successful operations such as this are instrumental to building the capabilities of the Iraqi Army to a level where they can operate on their own, with no Marine advisors. The sooner this happens, the sooner the Marines can hand the reins of security to their Iraqi brothers-in-arms, confident that they will have the necessary tools to “ensure domestic tranquility” in their country.Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn