FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Breakups can be painful. For Cpl. Joseph Mahoney, however, he claimed to have found something bigger and better after the final farewells were said.
The 21-year-old Lynn, Mass. native and 22 other Marines were separated from comrades they had lived and trained with for several months to create a new unit; one mobile, flexible and skilled enough to battle the unpredictable insurgency here.
They are 4th Combined Anti-Armor Team, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. Mahoney, a 2004 Lynn Vocational Technical High School graduate and his brothers-in-arms became a team in late April to provide security for Fallujah’s streets and surrounding rural areas.
“When we first came together, everyone hung out with the people they knew from their old platoons,” said Mahoney, a machine gunner by trade and a vehicle operator with the team. “It didn’t take us long to come together, though. Now, it’s just like being with our old platoons, if not better.”
Reliance on each other is one strength “Ghost Rider” Marines use everyday to accomplish their difficult operations. From looking for terrorist activity on roads leading into the city, to patrolling Fallujah’s streets, men like Mahoney toil underneath Iraq’s blistering sun to secure the previously war-torn city.
“Sometimes, we’ll have really boring days when nothing happens. We still keep our awareness up to expect the worse, though,” Mahoney stated. “We do our best to change things up to keep insurgents guessing, but it still gets very repetitive out here.”
Nevertheless, these Marines have seen their fair share of action during their five months together. “Ghost Rider” Marines claim such accomplishments as unearthing nine roadside bombs, capturing one IED triggerman and one IED planter, and detaining several other insurgents wanted by their battalion.
This CAAT is also the only group of Marines in their battalion to have engaged insurgents with automatic weapons, such as .50 caliber Machine Guns and MK-19 automatic Grenade Launchers. The Marines used these heavy guns to sink boats on a river from which terrorists were attacking them.
When not patrolling and on the offensive, Mahoney and his fellow Marines maintain vigilance over a roadway connecting Baghdad and Fallujah.
“We drive out here in the middle of nowhere to look for things that could conceal IEDs, like boxes and animal carcasses,” Mahoney explained. “We’ll move into our positions and observe for people stopped along the side of the road or setting stuff down.”
For hours on end and into the night, the team scans the unchanging horizon to keep other drivers and their own convoys safe.
Thanks to their platoon’s vigilance, battalion personnel reported the number of IED attacks on Mobile to have significantly decreased since the unit arrived here in mid-March.
“My Marines are focused on finding, capturing or killing the enemy,” stated Gunnery Sgt. Walter Diggs, platoon commander. “We’re always practicing and conducting rehearsals to prepare for these missions. When they’re doing (these missions), my guys think to themselves, ‘This is for the Marines who’ve been hurt out here.’”
In April, one Weapons Company Corpsman was killed in action when his vehicle was struck by an IED (improvised explosive device). Three Marines with Mahoney’s battalion have also perished in IED explosions.
Months later, the battalion’s Marines and Sailors keep their memories of fallen friends alive as they continue bringing security to a still-turbulent nation.
Mahoney said his team will finish out their deployment, content with having played a vital role in securing the still-infant democratic nation of Iraq.
“We can leave here knowing that we did our part to keep our areas safe,” he said.