COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq --
Someone once said, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ First Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, is applying this truism to their operations in the Iraqi desert.
The battalion is part of the regimental-wide ‘Operation Mawtini,’ which kicked off July 15, 2007. This operation closely follows ‘Operation Harris Ba’sil,’ which gave the regiment a wider picture of enemy movement patterns, and was intended to provide more focused operations in the critical enemy areas. Data gathered by military officials shows an increase in enemy activity during this time of year.
“We anticipate that the terrorists will attempt to step-up their attacks in the urban areas to gain power and influence over the population,” said Col. Stacy Clardy, the regiment’s commanding officer. “We’re hunting them down so that doesn’t happen.”
First LAR launched Company C, also known as the ‘Warpigs,’ in support of the operation, which covered most of the battalion’s area of operation (AO) across the northeastern side of the Euphrates River. In addition to the Warpigs, the battalion also had several attachments and Iraqi Security Forces participating in the first stages of the operation.
“We projected our force into our AO, showed our presence, talked to people, and gathered a lot of information,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas R. Johnson, a platoon commander with the company. “That’s a large part of what LAR does; it’s even in the name: reconnaissance; we gather information. I think this operation is the right answer to some of the problems we have seen in the past. Continually going out in force, and continually showing our presence is definitely working in our favor and producing results.”
During the first week of the operation the battalion and its attachments, commonly referred to as ‘Task Force Highlander,’ found three weapons caches and storage areas and detained two Iraqis suspected of insurgent activity. Some of the things they recovered were: propane tanks, a truck rigged with a detonation trigger, electrical wiring, detonation cord, (16) 10-gallon drums of nitric acid - 14 of which were rigged with detonation cord, several small arms weapons including AK-47’s and a submachine gun, 59 fully loaded AK-47 magazines,(100) 9mm rounds, (880) .762-caliber rounds, a shotgun, a house rigged with several explosives, and a Ruchnoi Pulemet Kalashnikova medium machine gun, commonly referred to as the Kalashnikov or an RPK.
“We have done an amazing job so far disrupting AIF (anti-Iraqi forces) presence in the North (of the Euphrates River),” said 1st Lt. Ryan C. Stewart, the battalion’s intelligence officer.
The battalion’s focus during the operation is to deny insurgents the ability to conduct a surge of activity and setting the conditions for continued Iraqi government and Iraqi provincial leadership.
“So far we have provided stability and security for the Iraqi civilians, and we are disrupting AIF movement from urban areas. We are stopping them from fleeing into the open terrain and preventing them from getting back into the cities to disrupt security,” said Stewart, who is serving on his second tour to Iraq.
The operation not only includes Marines, soldiers and sailors, but also Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The Warpigs had several Iraqi Army soldiers attached to their light armored vehicles who participated in searching houses and questioning Iraqi civilians about insurgent activity.
Marines in the battalion say they are confident the remainder of the operation will go as smoothly as the first week has, and they remain optimistic about the overall goal of provincial Iraqi control.
“The ISF needs to take over, so it is essential and imperative that we include them on operations like this and take them along with us so we can continue to teach them,” said Johnson, an Elbert, Colo., native. “They need to know how to counteract insurgents and fight insurgent activity, so they can continue this work after we are gone. And they will. They have done a good job so far, and they will continue to do it after we are gone, so long as we continue to train them and teach them what we know.”