COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq --
Traditionally throughout history, wolves are feared and respected, and are the subject of numerous myths from the Norse god Fenrir (the wolf destined to bring the end of the world), to werewolves, to the children’s stories Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs.
In Iraq’s western Anbar Province, the legend of the wolf lives on as 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion returns to the western Euphrates River valley surrounding Rawah and Anah in support of Regimental Combat Team 2.
The sight of a company of 3rd LAR’s light armored vehicles speeding across the desert sands, kicking up a massive dust trail as they sweep from cliff to valley to hill, easily conjures an explanation for their nickname, the Wolfpack.
This year marks the Wolfpack’s fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and their second trip to the Rawah area in western al Anbar Province. The battalion wasted no time upon arriving and jumped right into Operation Mawtini III.
“This operation is really a series of smaller operations that cover our entire area of operation,” explained Lt. Col. James R. Parrington, the battalion’s commanding officer. “The purpose is to disrupt enemy activity and improvised explosive device cells, disrupt and dissuade suicide bombers, and find weapons.”
The battalion ‘alpha dog’ went on to say the regimental-wide operation is geared toward preventing the insurgents who were driven from the cities by the regiment from entering them again.
“The cities, though not perfect, are getting a secure environment which allows the government to grow. We’re trying to maintain that security and that progress,” the Minneapolis native said.
Company C, or Comanche, played a large role in the Wolfpack’s desert operations, and recently swept through one of the desert’s dried up wadi (oases) systems, now just a series of large barren riverbeds, caves and cliffs.
“Basically, Comanche was tasked with going out to the open desert to hunt insurgents because most of them have been driven out of the towns and cities due to the successful joint operations with the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Sgt. Jesse R. Walden, a squad leader with the company.
Walden, a Muskogee, Okla., native went on to say the company was expected to interdict insurgents trying to cross the desert, and discover and destroy caches and other illegal materials.
“We’ve been looking for caches and insurgents who may be using the old wadi as a way to avoid coalition or Iraqi forces,” said Lance Cpl. Mark Efimoff, a squad automatic weapon gunner with the company. “I think the mission was a success, we came out looking for stuff, and we found it.”
The company found nearly a half dozen AK-47s, 15 fully loaded AK-47 magazines, two cases of 10-guage shotgun flares, and two ammunition cans of 7.62 mm rounds.
Comanche accompanied a local Provincial Security Force on the sweep through the barren wadi. The Marines said they were a little surprised by the Iraqi Police who make up the special force.
“I guess the PSF are like a sheriffs department in the U.S.,” explained Walden. “Compared to two years ago, you can tell the joint security operations like this are working much better, regardless of the reports you hear abut random and sporadic attacks.”
“I heard a lot of good things about the PSF before we went out with them. They don’t have the Marine Corps military discipline, but their hearts are in the right place and they’re trying to accomplish the same mission we are,” said Efimoff, a Woodburn, Oreg., native.
While sweeping through the old wadi, the PSF found a tent with (14) 25-pound bags of homemade explosive, a rocket, and a large supply of detonation cord.
“The PSF is a pretty good organization,” said Parrington, a veteran of Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom. “The (Iraqi Security Forces) in this area are doing great. The police are policing, the soldiers are doing what soldiers do. The Iraqi Army, Police, and PSF can all lay claim to the success here because they were all here long before us. I would characterize their contribution as significant and their performance as exceptional.”
The Wolfpack commander said he looks forward to the day when U.S. forces are no longer needed in Iraq, and he is making sure his battalion does everything they can to contribute to provincial Iraqi control.
“I’d like to work us out of a job,” laughed the 21-year Marine Corps veteran. “I’d like to see the Iraqi Army in control of the battlespace, the police in complete control of the towns, and rule of law firmly established, so criminals can be tried and convicted. That’s my goal, to work us out of a job.”