FALLUJAH, Iraq -- “We’re not playing around; we won’t stand for it. We’ll go through every house in this city over and over again until we find them.”
Determinedly, Lance Cpl. Joseph Wheeler explained the purpose behind Operation Hard Knock, June 1.
The 21-year-old Bumpass, Va. native’s Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based unit, Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, worked alongside Iraqi Security Forces here to conduct the joint team’s most concerted one day effort yet to rid the city of terrorists.
Elements from the 2003 Louisa County High School graduate's battalion wired off entire blocks of urban terrain, while Iraqi soldiers and Company B Marines swept through houses and fields inside this area.
Wheeler, an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon gunner with 3rd Platoon, Company B, and his squad followed the soldiers as they searched through fields of rubble and residents’ homes for weapons and explosives.
As the troops introduced themselves and explained their mission, their leaders wrote down census information on each household. This included things used to gather information on the area, such as who lived in each home and what vehicles they possessed.
“The objective was to look for weapons, booby traps, and IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” explained Wheeler, whose team helped provide area security as the Iraqi soldiers spoke with the citizens and searched their homes. “Sometimes you have to be firm, but today’s operation was more like ‘Hi, I’m your local Marine and Soldier. Please let us search your premises for weapons.’ I thought it went really well, and that this will help out in further securing the city.”
Wheeler’s assessment seemed correct, in light of the day’s discoveries. During this approximately 14-hour-long patrol, the Iraqi soldiers and Marines unearthed a submachine gun, several rocket propelled grenade launchers, rockets, high explosive artillery rounds, and materials used to make IEDs.
The unit also detained four known insurgent supporters.
Additionally, the community helped point out unexploded ordnance inside the city, which are things such as grenades and rockets left over from previous conflicts that did not detonate upon impact.
Marine combat engineers proceeded to remove and detonate these hazards.
Hard Knock also allowed ISF in the area to operate more independently than during previous raids and patrols with the Marines. The Iraqi forces swept through half the sector working only with Wheeler’s squad as support.
“As a re-established military, I thought they did very well,” Wheeler stated. “Today, it wasn’t them helping us out; it was us helping them out. Everything we do around here is in support of the ISF.”
The soldiers and Marines continue working together to rid Fallujah and the surrounding areas of insurgents.