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Photo Information

DULAB, Iraq - A convoy of Iraqi Army soldiers halt on a road during house clearing maneuvers here. The Iraqi vehicles were used as an extra form of security for the Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers patrolling the surrounding areas.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brian L. Lewis

Marines track across Dulab in search of weapons

22 Aug 2007 | Lance Cpl. Brian L. Lewis

No house here was neglected during a recent operation to rid the area of weapons and caches.

Marines from Company B, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, diligently searched house-to-house in an effort to find any hidden weapons, while Marines from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion searched the surrounding area for caches.

“Basically, the operation is a sweeping mission throughout Dulab to find any weapon caches that may be hidden,” said 1st Lt. Todd P. Forsman, executive officer for Company B. “This is also a test for the Iraqis to monitor their progress.”

This company-level operation took place during Operation Mawtini (My Homeland) which encompassed most of western Al Anbar province.

The mission began in the early morning as both Marines and members of the Iraqi Army prepared for the two-day search. They had a set distance to cover in a limited amount of time. Nothing was going to stand in their way.

The Marines set out and the first house of many was visited. A young Iraqi woman answered the door, and happily allowed them inside. The house was empty, and it was time to keep moving.

Marines slowly crept through the narrow passageways, staying on the alert. Then, a call came across the radio.

“Be advised, we have found a cache in the ridgeline,” the voice said.

The engineers had come through. A cache containing numerous weapons and improvised explosive device materials had been found, but this was only the beginning.

The day was certainly looking up for the Marines as more houses were searched. The operation seemed to flow like clockwork due in large part to support of the Iraqi locals. This can only be traced back to the battalion’s relentless efforts to keep them safe and secure.

The mission continued as the afternoon sun climbed higher into the sky, giving subtle hints of the hardships to come.

Under the heat of the mid day sun, the Marines established security and paused in a local Iraqi’s house. He gave them a place to rest their feet, as well as provided them with food and water.

The Marines continued to stay focused on their mission. The 27 men, spread from the green palm groves to rocky ridgelines overlooking Dulab, were going to complete the mission.

Houses were visited in sequence as the Marines became determined to properly complete their mission. Members of the Iraqi Army also became filled with determination as they covered ground in record time.

A few obstacles were met. The occasional household hid small weaponry or ammunition amounts that exceeded the allowed amount. The problems were nothing to worry much about, and after being dealt with accordingly, the Marines moved on.

The sun began to fall. An old abandoned house was selected and the Marines slept under the watchful eye of their fellow brothers.

Morning came soon and the Marines shaved and cleaned up before finishing the last piece of their mission. They had to make it to a nearby wadi, which is a dry river bed, and sweep it clean of anything the insurgents might be trying to hide.

Houses were scarce and the only obstacle in their way was two miles of rocky path winding aside a mountainous ridgeline leading to the extraction point.

Determination soon paid off as an area of concentrated greenery appeared in the eyes of those brave Marines enduring the long patrol.

“That’s it,” Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Utto, a section leader with 3rd Platoon, said in a sigh of relief, “only 600 meters to go.”

What followed was a final push by the Marines to make it to the wadi. In what seemed like only seconds, the troops set foot on the edge of their objective.

The Marines were met up with members of other platoons pushing similar missions from the Baghdadi area. With the combined power of the Marines and the Iraqi Army soldiers, the ground was cleaned of any possible dangers in the area and the mission was complete.

“It’s over,” one Marine said as he sat.

Trucks soon came to transport the Marines back to their forward operating base. They were finally given a chance to rest – a reward well deserved.

“We swept the palm groves and houses of Southwest Dulab, and the Marines are still strong,” said 1st Lt. Kyle M. Gallagher, the commander of 3rd platoon. “These Marines know how to do their job, and they do it well.”