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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - A Marine with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment kisses his loved one shortly after arriving here Oct. 12. The unit returned home after conducting seven months of security and stability operations in and around Fallujah, Iraq.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

Mission accomplished for 1/6 ‘HARD’ warriors

12 Oct 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

Final elements of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment arrived here Oct. 12 after completing a seven-month-long tour of duty in western Iraq’s turbulent Al Anbar province.The unit had been conducting counter-insurgency and humanitarian operations since March throughout the Northern Fallujah area. They were relieved by their sister battalion, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.First Battalion, Sixth Marine Regiment began its successful tour by relieving 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, a California-based unit that helped wrest Fallujah from the insurgents in late 2004.“We fought across the full spectrum of conflict as a combined arms team,” said Lt. Col. William Jurney, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s commanding officer. “Our Marines and sailors were fully integrated with the Iraqi Security Forces from the beginning. Together, we focused on hunting down those coward terrorist elements that have absolutely no regard for human life or the interests of the hard-working people of Iraq.”Shortly after arriving in Iraq, the Marines and ISF kicked off Operation Greenback by providing security in the city’s Jolan Park area. Inside this former amusement park, Iraqi officials distributed approximately $100 million worth in U.S. dollars throughout several months to hundreds of Fallujah’s residents as compensation payments for damages done to their homes and businesses during the push through the city, known as Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004.In mid-April, the battalion’s Company A moved out of their Fallujah base of operations to establish a new one in Saqlawiyah, a rural farming province miles outside the city. The Marines and sailors aimed to disrupt the many insurgents that had fled Fallujah and were seeking haven from coalition forces operating nearby.This was the first time troops operating in Fallujah had established a permanent presence outside the city.In Saqlawiyah, battalion personnel worked in conjunction with Marines of the 5th Civil Affairs Group and the city council to rebuild the local infrastructure and rehire the police force, something the community had been lacking since ‘Phantom Fury.’ Throughout the months, Company A Marines provided security for CAG personnel as they helped sanitize the local medical clinic’s backyard biohazard waste dump, along with investing millions of dollars to revamp the community’s water treatment plant’s piping system and power distribution network.Beginning in May, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment personnel furthered their humanitarian efforts by conducting Operation Blackboard, during which they and ISF personnel handed out dozens of blackboards and school desks, along with thousands of school supplies, to numerous schools throughout Northern Fallujah.In addition to operating within the city, battalion personnel pushed into their area’s northernmost desert wastelands to hunt for terrorists and weapons caches in late June. During this operation, codenamed ‘Dagger’, troops worked for five consecutive days to unearth several arms stockpiles and insurgent propaganda.While conducting these major offensive and civil military operations, the battalion continued constantly patrolling the cities’ streets and carrying out almost nightly raids on suspected insurgent safe houses. Marine forces conducted approximately 3,900 patrols and 140 cordon and knocks during their seven months here.Altogether, the forces detained approximately 380 insurgents and unearthed more than 4,000 weapons in the area. These munitions included 177 pounds of explosives, more than 400 mortar rounds and 635 blasting caps. These are all materials insurgents can use to make improvised explosive devices.Additionally, Marine and ISF personnel confiscated dozens of small arms, machineguns, and mortar systems throughout the area. First Battalion, Sixth Marine Regiment operated side-by-side with ISF personnel during every such weapons- and intelligence-gathering mission and patrol. The Iraqi soldiers had in part learned urban war fighting tactics via this on-the-job training, but also by formal instruction that a cadre of battalion infantrymen had delivered to them.Starting in April, Marine forces began schooling Iraqi troops in the area on topics such as urban patrolling skills, conducting first aid in combat and how to navigate a logistics convoy through Iraq’s perilous roads, both during day and nighttime. Nearly 1,000 Iraqi soldiers received this formal military training.According to Jurney, the battalion helped develop and employ four separate battalions of ISF personnel. These troops were an invaluable asset to the Marines on the ground, helping direct foot and vehicle traffic away from the forces’ patrols and bridging the communication gap between the local populace and the American troops.“I can definitely say I saw a stronger ISF presence (in the end) than when we first got here,” stated Lance Cpl. Chris Graves, an infantryman with Company C. “At first, there would only be a few Iraqi soldiers patrolling with one of our squads. Later on, they did a lot of their own patrols, or at most, we’d have a team of three or four Marines walking with them.”Graves added that the more time went by, the more ISF forces conducted operations independent of their Marine counterparts. These continual patrolling and observation missions led to a substantial decrease in insurgent activity.“Each month, the insurgents placed less IEDs (than the month before),” said Pfc. Phil Farmer, an infantryman with Company B. “Our constant observation cut down on the terrorist activity in the area, because they knew we were on to them.”Now, the battalion’s weary warriors are elated to return to their loved ones, knowing that their sacrifices contributed to a developing democratic nation’s success.“I feel really excited to come home, and I think we did an awesome job in gaining the trust of the Iraqi people,” Farmer said. “These past few months were really tiring, but it all paid off in the end.”Jurney also acknowledged the effort his men put forth to accomplish their part in the ongoing war on terrorism. “The single most important factor in our success was not the introduction of new technology or a new piece of equipment, but the capabilities inherent in every Marine,” Jurney stated. “We ensured that every Marine could shoot, move and communicate. We combined those combat skills with mature small unit leaders who maintained a high level of discipline. The cornerstone of our success was the actions and decisions made on a daily basis by these individuals.”