Marines search hospital, BAT those inside

8 Mar 2005 | Cpl. Tom Sloan

The Marines rehearsed in their heads the mission awaiting them in the heart of the insurgent-infested city here. It was mid-morning, around 10 a.m. Drizzling rain, a gray, cloudy sky and the threat of danger, combined to create a dramatically intense five-minute ride in humvees and 7-tons as their convoy transported them to their destination.

Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment joined Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in a raid on the Ar Ramadi General Hospital here. Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines Human Exploitation Team, Information Operations, the 4th and 5th Civil Affairs Groups and more than 20 Iraqi Security Force Commandos also participated in the mission, which lasted more than four hours.

The purpose of the raid was to look for weapons caches, insurgents and crimes against humanity, according to Staff Sgt. Alexis Rivera Jr., 1st Battalion's IO chief. He continued to say that the hospital has been historically a hotbed of insurgent activity.

"Insurgents have been held up in the hospital in the past," explained the 26-year-old Springfield, Mass. native "It's unacceptable for terrorist to use a hospital for terrorist activity. A hospital is meant to treat people."

Patients in the hospital could be suffering by going without appropriate treatment if insurgents were occupying it, he said.

As the convoy rolled into the hospital's parking lot, everyone dismounted and headed to the building's three entrances, entering them simultaneously. They encountered no resistance.

The 4th and 5th CAGs were along to identify, segregate and safeguard patients, family and visitors, according to Maj. Benjamin B. Busch, team leader, 5th CAG.

"Our job is to evaluate and attempt to avoid any negative consequences with the innocent Iraqis during the operation," the 36-year-old Sherburne, N.Y native said. "The Marine Corps' mission is to reach that positive or neutral civilian population and ensure any negativity is diminished through direct, positive interaction."

They also collected cell phones from everyone and ensured they received food and water while waiting.

"Collecting their phones will help to disrupt their command and control," explained Busch. "They (insurgents) have a history of alerting others that coalition forces are in the area. We want them to have food and water because they may be waiting here awhile."

The Marines cordoned and searched the hospital's six floors and determined each to be without weapons or insurgents.

They then screened everyone inside - doctors, patients, staff and visitors - to determine if anyone was an insurgent or linked to the insurgent network.

The Marines set up four Biometric Automative Tools in a room on the Hospitals second floor to screen the mass of people in the hospital. The BAT is a system of laptop computers, fingerprint readers and digital cameras.

"We ran each individual through the BAT to see if they are insurgents," said Cpl. Sean B. McAllister, a 22-year-old rifleman with Company G, 2nd Battalion.

The Medina, N.Y. native explained, that the BAT will identify if an individual has a criminal record, much the same as the background checks police do on people in the United States. He added they must be in the system already, though.

After more than three hours of screening, no anti-Iraq personnel were found and the Marines left having several new identities entered in their BAT system, which could be beneficial during future operations.