LAKE THAR THAR, Iraq -- Marines with Mobile Assault Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, rooted out insurgents in remote areas of western Al Anbar province Jan. 5 to the 10.
The company-wide Operation Long Horn consisted of Marines searching the shores of Lake Thar Thar and remote villages in a 2,400 square-kilometer area looking for weapons caches and gathering intelligence of an area relatively unknown to Marines.
Many places in the remote area have never been visited by U.S. Forces. Because of this fact, the Marines of the battalion felt the area might be hiding insurgents and weapons caches used for operations in other parts of Iraq.
“In some areas the people said they have never seen U.S. Forces and in others it has been over a year,” said Capt. Eric A. Reid, a College Station, Texas, native and company commander for Mobile Assault Company. “Our mission is to gain an understanding of the terrain and the people in this area for the future.”
They met with leaders of each village to discuss future projects to improve the people’s lives.
“Every village has civil projects that need to be done,” Reid commented. “We are trying to see what we can do to improve their lives out here.”
Using small paths and making their own paths in the open desert, the Marines traveled hundreds of miles, going from village to village along the shore of Lake Thar Thar. The company used combat engineer teams with metal detectors to search the shores and outlying areas of each village as other Marines searched each house and talked with locals about recent activity in the area.
“So far, we haven’t found much, but we did find a few weapons that weren’t supposed to be there,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Mitchell, a New London, Wis., native and combat engineer with the battalion. “We found a few weapons on the shore that looked like they were just thrown there and the people took off.”
The cold, rainy weather made the mission miserable for the Marines, who spent more than 16 hours a day on their feet pushing up the shoreline of the lake. Navigating through the virgin terrain was also a problem because the Marines had never operated that far out of their base at the Haditha Dam.
“I think, if anything, this operation tells the insurgents that no matter how far we have to go, we are coming to find them,” said Sgt. Sanjesh Chand, a Sacramento, Calif., native and the communications chief for Mobile Assault Company. “They will think twice about setting up shop out here and being safe from us.”