“We came out here to interdict anti-Iraqi forces and provide a secure environment for the Iraqi people,” said 2nd Lt. Jim A. Neville, a 32-year-old tank platoon commander from West Newfield, Maine. “It’s not a permanently occupied area for us, so there’s always something new for us.”
Marines conducted a series of cache sweeps, cordon-and-knocks and snap vehicle checkpoints, searching for hidden weapons and insurgents on wanted lists. Marines searched abandoned chemical factories, squatters’ huts, farms and roadside stores. At least two were detained for matching descriptions of wanted individuals and several weapons were confiscated.
The operation marked just one smaller operation in a string of efforts north of Fallujah. While most Marines work in the more densely populated areas of Falllujah, Saqlawiyah and Ameriyah, the task-organized infantry-armor teams made the most of their small-unit flexibility and imposing force of the M-1A1 Main Battle Tank.
“The people up here sometimes feel neglected,” Neville said. “They feel they don’t get the security they need against anti-Iraqi forces who intimidate and steal gas.”
Slowly but surely we seem to be making progress:
The presence of repeated missions to the area by tanks, infantry and crews of amphibious assault vehicles recently has paid off, Neville explained. Engineers swept miles of berms, farmland and enormous gaping wells scraped from the desert floor, known areas for hidden weapons. They turned up little, a sign Neville took as encouraging.
“It shows the efforts of the tanks and AAVs is paying off,” he said. “Six months ago, you could throw a stick and find a cache.”
There are a lot of good pics at the end of the story, and the large version give a great look at some of the Marines’ weapons.
Also, don’t miss Iraqi soldiers go solo in western Iraq