AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq -- October 2 began as another hot and dusty day in Iraq. By day’s end, however, the Marines of 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines defeated local insurgents in a decisive small-arms battle.
The As Sadah Firefight, as the engagement is now known, was a decisive blow to the local insurgency cells and a push in the direction of a free Iraq.
“All the Marines did exactly what they were supposed to do,” said Sgt. Michael P. Hodshire, 2nd Squad Leader for 3rd Platoon. “We gave our initial orders and the Marines followed their training to take the fight to the enemy.”
The Marines of 3rd Platoon were conducting patrols out of a forward operating base when mortar rounds impacted 400 meters away. Their adrenaline pumping, the Marines in the building put on their gear and prepared themselves for whatever might happen next.
As soon as the first enemy rounds hit, a call went out for air support to try and find the point of origin for the enemy’s mortar position.
The impacts kept getting closer until eventually the Marines heard them land only 100 meters away. Each enemy round fired continued to encroach upon the FOB until they were within 30 meters of the Marines’ position.
Using a 60 mm mortar, Lance Cpl. Armand J. Anderson, a mortar man with the unit, fired rounds by hand, without a bipod, back at the enemy positions, while Lance Cpl. Gary W. Bell and his machine gunners laid down heavy suppressive fire on the enemy position from the rooftop of their FOB with two M2 .50 caliber heavy machine guns and one 240G medium machine gun. Anderson fired with such precision that the enemy mortars ceased firing.
“Without the well-laid fire from our mortars and machineguns, the enemy mortars may have hit even closer than they did,” said Sgt. Sean H. Miles, 1st Squad Leader for 3rd Platoon.
Shortly after the enemy mortar attack on the base, small arms fire started coming from a house to the east. In response, 2nd Squad pushed out in that direction to seek out and destroy the enemy.
When 2nd Squad was approximately 200 meters from the suspected insurgent house, a loud yell in Arabic was heard. Suddenly, the insurgents opened up on the Marines with rifle and machinegun fire. Rocket Propelled Grenades were also fired at the Marines from a dirt mound in proximity of the insurgent house.
Already 30 min had passed since the first mortar landed near the Easy Company Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines. By this time, air support was being re-routed to the battalion in order to provide close air support for this platoon-sized firefight. Third Platoon received an abundance of air power: a section of Cobra/Huey helicopters for close air support; a section of Air Force F-16’s looking for enemy indirect fire positions; and an Un-manned Arial Vehicle that was watching enemy movements on the ground.
With support from the Battalion Combat Operations Center, the Marines in the fight were able to paint an accurate picture that enabled the pilots to put ordnance squarely on the enemy position.
During this particular fight, the Marines on the ground were unable to establish direct communication with the pilots. Instead it had to be routed through other channels. With a chain of five Marines passing information, the pilots were able to communicate with ground forces.
“Upon the positive confirmation of friendly and enemy positions, air elements were extremely successful at suppressing the enemy attacking Easy Company,” said Capt. Matt L. “Runt” Walker, Battalion Air Officer.
“Despite the communication problems, the Marines on the ground, while in duress and taking enemy fire, were able to accurately convey the enemy’s position for the inbound air support,” said Capt. Brian P. Mclaughlin, the Assistant Operations Officer and Battalion Watch Officer on duty at the time of the firefight.
The Marines of a Mobile Assault Platoon with Weapons Company were the closest reinforcement assets to the engagement and were called upon to provide support and reinforcement for the foot-mobile unit.
The enemy, having wired the main canal bridge with several improvised explosive devices, forced MAP to find an alternate route to 3rd Platoon, Company E’s position. The Marines still needed the MAP’s support, so 1st Lt. James E. Martin Jr., the MAP’s Platoon Commander, pulled out his map of the area of operation and smartly located a secondary route to 3rd Platoon.
The MAP joined 3rd Platoon in the fight approximately 15 minutes later. They supported the platoon by providing communications gear, mobile firepower, and additional security at the FOB.
Throughout the firefight, the Corpsmen of 3rd Platoon, Company E, attended to the wounded in action. During the initial exchange of small arms fire a Lance Cpl. from 2nd squad sustained a gunshot wound to the leg from small-arms fire. With a cool head, Seaman Apprentice Kevin L. Smith, a corpsman with the platoon, pulled the Marine from the line of fire. Smith calmed him down and splinted McGraw’s broken leg with a stick and a stretchable support wrap.
After they were able to move injured the Marine to the casualty collection point on a stretcher, Hospitalman Clarence T. Lovelace Jr., another Corpsman with the platoon, checked the Marine for other wounds finding none. He applied a second bandage to the wound and splinted both his legs together for better support.
A field to the side of the FOB was quickly cleared so the casualty could be evacuated by helicopter to Fallujah Surgical on Camp Fallujah for further treatment.
Now nearly two hours into the fight, 3rd Platoon was running low on ammunition and water. Back at the battalion COC, available assets were quickly assessed and, in short order, a plan of action was developed to conduct a re-supply.
At a feverish but calculated pace, Capt. Roger S. Hill, the Battalion Logistics Officer, and Staff Sgt. James I. Dale, the Combat Train Platoon Commander, worked the problem at hand. In less than 30 minutes the vehicles were loaded with supplies, combat checks were conducted and the re-supply operation order was briefed to the Marines heading to 3rd Platoon’s position. They conducted a successful re-supply run in a safe and efficient manner enabling 3rd Platoon to receive the ammunition and water to stay in the fight.
Supply convoy; mobile support; air firepower – the As Sadah Firefight had required the Marines to use all the elements of combined arms. A perfect example of team effort and the Corps’ motto, “Semper Fidelis”, were manifested in the Marine’s actions that day.
And after three hours of fierce combat in the hot, dry climate, the Marines of 3rd Platoon, sweat dripping from their brows, secured the surrounding area and assessed the situation. Once the Marines were able to take a breath and look around, they saw the thousands of spent rounds they had fired to stay alive and destroy insurgent activity in the immediate area.
The house the insurgents used as a base had collapsed in on itself after being repeatedly hit with Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missiles from the MAP and Hellfire missiles from the Cobras. It was also peppered with numerous small arms rounds from the two squads. Only one wall of the house still stood as the rest of the building continued to smolder. The Marines inspected the house for whatever was left. A squad of enemy insurgents was killed and wounded, dealing a severe blow to insurgent cells.
“We found the ground littered with small-arms rounds that had exploded from the missile attacks,” Hodshire stated.
It was over.
The heat of mid-day subsided and the dust settled on another day in Iraq. The 1st squad leader reflected: “All the Marines did everything they were supposed to, down to the most junior Marine in the platoon,” Miles stated. “I couldn’t have asked any more of them.”