HIT, Iraq -- While on a routine patrol pushing out from their field operation bases here, a squad of Marines with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment faced a dire situation.
Fourth Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company I, found themselves stranded from the rest of their battalion when an insurgent’s car bomb damaged a bridge blocking their passage back to the nearest firm base.
The Marines were on routine operation when things began to turn chaotic within a matter of minutes.
“We were on the east side of the river preparing to patrol back to the FOB when we heard huge explosions and a volley of fire,” said Galion, Ohio, native, Cpl. Robert G. Dockstader, a 34-year fireteam leader with the squad. “We got word over the radio that our FOB was under attack from the same side of the river we were on.”
The squad, in an effort to flank the enemy and relieve the FOB, proceeded through a palm grove along the river toward the insurgents.
“It was like a scene from a movie moving along the brush like that,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas O. Calamita, a 19-year-old infantryman and Cheektowaga, N.Y., native. “We could hear the fire from ahead of us so we began to close in on them.”
As they closed in on a house, they could see the friendly fire coming from the other side of the river.
“We were moving slowly when I heard something whiz past and I hit the deck,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Keene, a 23-year-old radio operator and Hamilton, Ohio native. “We pulled back into a better position and began to engage them by doing fire and movement actions.”
After the insurgent threat was eliminated, the Marines signaled the FOB across the river to let them know where their position was. As they began to move back toward the bridge, they saw a vehicle sitting in the middle.
“We knew it was an SVBIED because of the way it was positioned and when we re-established communication with the FOB they confirmed our beliefs,” said Lance Cpl. David A. Burns, a 23-year-old Greenville, Penn., native and infantryman. “They began engaging the vehicle while we moved toward the traffic circle in the nearest neighborhood.”
Upon approaching the usually busy traffic circle, they noticed no one was around and some shop doors open. They were setting up a position to wait for directions from the FOB when they began taking fire from the surrounding buildings.
Helicopter support soon arrived and flew low to provide them with as much supporting fire as possible.
“When we reached the house, an explosion came from the direction of the palm groves,” said Pfc. Macan J. McBurney, a 26-year-old Austin, Texas native and infantryman. “A few minutes later, we heard a huge explosion and knew that the SVBIED had exploded.”
Once again, they began to move through the hostile area to secure a landing site for their extraction. Before long they boarded the helicopter and breathed a sigh of relief as they reflected on what had just happened.
“We realized that everything we learned in SOI (School of Infantry) we had done in one day,” said a smiling Cpl. Eric R. Hamilton, a 24-year-old Bemus Point, N.Y. native and fireteam leader. “As dangerous as that was, we were all excited by the fact that we got a chance to use all of our training and lived to tell about it.”
Upon their return to Camp Hit, they heard about all the attacks and how little effect it had on them.
“For a huge coordinated attack they failed horribly,” said Calamita, a 2004 McKinley High School graduate. “No Marines died and those that were injured either will or have returned to the fight.”
“We ambushed their position and they failed to hurt anyone with two explosives,” Keene, a 2000 Hamilton High School graduate said. “The only thing they accomplished is keeping our skills sharp and our willingness to fight up.”