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Marine Forces Pacific

Photo by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel

Operation Mercury heats up for Windlake, Wis., native ;

27 Jul 2005 | Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel 2nd Marine Division

The hot July sun was breaking the horizon of the Western Iraqi desert as Marines of 3rd Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment entered the city south of Al Qa’im to begin clearing it of insurgents and weapons caches.

Lance Cpl. Nathan G. Hart, 21, a radio operator with 3rd Platoon from Windlake, Wis., had an ears-on of the operation.

“My mission during these operations is to follow our platoon commander and inform him of everything that is going on and coming down from the company level,” explained the 2003 Muskego High School graduate.

Third Platoon’s mission during the operation was to clear three sectors of the city, house-to-house, and do their part to clear the city of the insurgency and weapons caches while gathering information on the whereabouts of terrorists in the area.

According to Hart, 1st and 3rd Platoon found a total of 40 AK-47s and a few RPK heavy automatic machine guns on the first day of the four-day operation.

“Usually everywhere we go out here (the Al Qa’im area) we find some sort of weapons cache or some of the local Iraqi citizens have too many weapons in their homes; this mission was no exception,” Hart explained.

Hart, a former member of the battalion’s security platoon, joined 3rd Platoon as a radio operator after the security platoon was disbanded and explains the importance of him being with the platoon commander for missions.

“Without a radio operator, there is no way the lieutenant would know what was going on from higher. Having an operator allows him to see the bigger picture of everything that goes on within the operation,” Hart said.

Hart believes that this mission, on his level, served a bigger purpose in the overall deployment as it begins to wind down for the battalion.

“I think it keeps us aware that anything can happen out here and keeps us proficient knowing that this thing is not over yet,” Hart continued. “For us this operation wasn’t as big as Operations Matador in May or Spear  in Karabilah due to the smaller size of the city, but it kept us moving and the insurgents running.”

Hart is proud of his platoon and believes that finding the weapons helped raise the morale of the troops.

“This platoon is very tactical and proficient in everything they do, which helps me concentrate on doing my job. For the mission, I think anytime we find weapons caches or things the insurgents could use against us, it boosts our morale,” Hart explained.

According to Hart, any mission is a success when they don’t take any casualties and he thanks an old friend for his and his fellow Marine’s safety during this deployment.

“I know that my friend Kevin Smith (a Marine lance corporal with security platoon, who was killed in action by a suicide vehicle borne bomb) is watching down on us like a guardian angel protecting us the whole way,” he said.