Photo Information

Halabisah, IRAQ - Combat engineers attached to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team-1, unearth a weapons cache from the front yard of an Iraqi household in Halabisah, Iraq during Operation Peninsula Plague March 1. The experience and equipment of the engineers led to the uncovering of multiple weapons caches during the operation.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

3/4 goes on the offensive

3 Mar 2005 | Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr. 2nd Marine Division

The residents of the small city of Halabisah, Iraq, slept comfortably in their homes during the quiet early morning hours of March 1, unaware of the silent force closing in around them.More than 200 Marines and corpsmen with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team-1, assisted by Iraqi Security Forces, successfully initiated and completed "Operation Peninsula Plague" in the small city just outside of Fallujah.The 72-hour operation marked the first offensive strike for 3/4 since their arrival in Iraq in early January."The purpose of the operation was to disrupt enemy activity on the peninsula, prevent the enemy from regrouping and to capture key enemy leaders," said Capt. Michael J. Bissonette, 36-year-old intelligence officer for 3/4.The operation began with a cordon of the entire city where tanks, light armored vehicles and Marines blocked the entry and exit points.Once the blocking units were in place, a convoy of more than 100 Marines and Iraqi soldiers pushed into the city toward their intended targets. "We cordoned off the area, targeted known cells and searched the locations for weapons caches and enemy forces," said the Brockport, N.Y. native.The Marines and Iraqi soldiers struck quickly at their specified targets, maintaining the element of surprise and capturing their targets without resistance."We received no contact and no casualties," said Maj. Matt O. Watt, the battalion's 33-year-old operations officer, "and that's always a good thing."The quick morning strikes, coupled with the exhaustive search of the city using metal detectors and the keen eyes of combat engineers, resulted in an effective disruption of enemy activity."We have prevented them from regaining their balance in the city," Bissonette said.This was accomplished by the recovery of more than 30 rifles, two medium machine guns, dozens of rocket propelled grenades and rockets, nearly 10,000 rounds of ammunition, large amounts of money, weapons manuals, Mujahedeen propaganda and improvised explosive device materials, according to 35-year-old Gunnery Sgt. Dewayne E. Walters, platoon sergeant for 4th Combat Engineer Battalion. "We definitely put a dent in the enemy's ability to attack us," said the Richmond, Va. native.Marines also captured 18 members of anti-Iraqi forces during the operation, including "trigger pullers", facilitators and leaders, according to Bissonette. "We expected to find leaders (of anti-Iraqi forces) in the city," Watt said, "and we were successful in doing so."Already crippled by the assault on Fallujah in November of 2004, enemy forces continue to be kept off balance by 3/4's operations in and around the city, Bissonette said. "The enemy can not mass considerable combat power, but they will continue to be a nuisance in the foreseeable future," he continued.