HIT, Iraq -- During a recent four-day operation, dubbed Operation Smokewagon, Iraqi Army soldiers and elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) conducted a sweep of numerous villages south of Hit, Iraq, looking for insurgents and their weapons caches.
The majority of the house-to-house searches were conducted by Iraqi soldiers and Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion., 2nd Marines' Bravo Co. and Golf Battery.
These units, supported by MEU Service Support Group 22, battled rain and muddy terrain while maneuvering through small villages and the numerous irrigated fields along the Western Euphrates River valley northwest of Ramadi.
During the second day of the operation, Iraqi Army soldiers and the Marines of B Company were crossing a canal when they came into contact with insurgents. With half of a platoon across a canal, one fire team pushed ahead to clear an abandoned building, when they were met by more enemy fire.
As more Marines were crossing the canal, less than 100 yards away, shots rang throughout the field. One phrase from Staff Sgt. David Marino, a platoon sergeant with Bravo Co., was heard by every Marine, "It's game time, Gents! Let's move, Marines!"
The Iraqi soldiers and Marines returned fire and formed a line to flank the building in an attempt to flush the insurgents out.
While taking fire, the Marines pushed to the building in squad rushes, a tactic taught as early as recruit training. When the Marines and Iraqi soldiers reached the building, three insurgents ran out with their hands raised, surrendering. They were quickly searched and moved away from the building, past the bodies of three insurgents who opened fire earlier on the Marines to start the engagement.
During a check of the dead insurgents, one had a belt laden with explosives strapped across his chest. Another insurgent had a grenade, pin pulled, in his now lifeless grasp.
Marino alertly made the Iraqi soldiers and Marines get back from the dead insurgents, in case the explosives detonated.
"Get everyone back," Marino spoke calmly into his radio.
"Everyone watch yourself, there could be more," said the Milo, Maine native. "Stay alert and get in a defensive position."
Marines got accountability and checked for casualties. After all Iraqi soldiers and Marines were accounted for, fire teams were sent to clear the canal adjacent to the building the insurgents were using. There were reports of another insurgent who fired and then ran into the brush by the canal.
While checking tall reeds in the canal, Marines found and killed the fourth armed insurgent who had evaded the Marines after the initial firefight. The body and weapon were pulled out of the knee-deep mud of the canal banks.
"These Marines did an awesome job," said 2nd Lt. Ryan Bumgardner, of Columbia, S.C., and platoon commander with B Company. "They did what they needed to do. They used the training they've received, and I couldn't be more proud of them."
The company continued with their mission of clearing houses and later joined with BLT 1/2's Golf Battery to conduct sweeps of larger villages.
"I'm just glad we finally got some [enemy contact]," said Lance Cpl. Keshon Nwaogu, of Hempstead, N.Y., a squad automatic weapon gunner for Bravo Co. "It may have been a little fight, but the fact is we managed to get rid of more insurgents. Whether dead or detained, they're still gone."
Iraqi soldiers with 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division and Bravo Co., Golf Battery, found and destroyed numerous weapons caches over the next two days, including several improvised explosive devices and rocket propelled grenade launchers.
In addition to BLT 1/2, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, MEU Service Support Group 22, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced). The 22nd MEU (SOC) is conducting counterinsurgency operations in Al Anbar province alongside an Iraqi infantry battalion, collectively under the tactical control of the 2nd Marine Division.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit's web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.