SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq -- A squad of Marines appears over the horizon. They approach at a slow steady pace, each step carefully measured, every inch of ground before them scanned thoroughly. They are spread out in a horizontal line that enables them to search a maximum amount of ground with a small amount of men.
As the men get closer, the details become clearer. They carry a large amount of gear and look exhausted. Their walk betrays their faces, however. They walk with the confident stride of men who enjoy what they are doing.
How can a Marine be in a good mood after having stayed in the field for seven straight days while carrying a full pack, barely having slept for days and not taking a shower? When he spends his days patrolling through fields and his nights laying in ambush for an unseen enemy, how can he stay motivated? When he continually finds weapons caches he will be happy. When he engages the enemy and kills or captures him, the Marine will be happy. He knows that he has removed from the field of battle weapons that were intended to kill him and his fellow Marines.
That night when he will sleep a little easier, knowing that he has accomplished something significant.
For seven days the Marines from Company G, and Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment, experienced that type of lifestyle.
The Marines were taking part in Operation Rebel Yell, a successful operation that took place in the countryside surrounding the town of Saqlawiyah Nov. 25 thru Dec 1.
The operation began the night of Nov. 24 immediately after the Marines ate Thanksgiving dinner and stepped off from base. They would spend the next seven days patrolling all day and lying in ambush to catch enemy activity every night.
“The platoons would set up a new patrol base every 24 hours,” said 1st Lt. Albert T. Maas, the executive officer for Company G, “From that patrol base they would send out patrols to sweep their area of operations. While on patrol the Marines carry a normal combat load and when they move from one patrol base to another they carry full packs along with all of their food and water.”
To ease the amount of weight the Marines had to carry around, they were re-supplied in the field.
“We would call in for re-supply and the company gunnery sergeant would bring us 2 MRE’s and 2 bottles of water per person every day,” said Cpl. Marshall L. Fugate, a 21-year-old Fort Walton, Fla., native.
The area that the operation was conducted in provided a mixture of environments for the Marines to operate in.
“I like it,” said Fugate, a team leader for 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon. “Saqlawiyah is a mixture of wide open farmland, woodlands, and an urban environment. Compared to Fallujah where all you have to do is be concerned with urban operations, our area gives us a variety of operations to do.”
The Marines conducting the operation considered it to be very successful.
“It was a good mission, it really was,” said Fugate. “We found a lot of stuff that we need to find. The mission was long but that’s the way it has to be. If it takes four or five days for us to find something, then so be it.”
The length of time the operation took was the only complaint the Marines had, but it was seen as a small price to pay to accomplish the mission.
“Yeah, it was a long mission, but that’s the way it should be,” said Cpl. Kyle R. Duignan, a 21-year-old Fairfax, Va., native and team leader with 1st Squad. “We didn’t find anything until the third day of the operation. If we had called it quits after two days of nothing, then we wouldn’t have found anything at all.”
“You have to have patience. It’s like fishing, once you catch a fish you can sit at the same spot all day trying to catch another,” added Cpl. Gabriel A. Ortiz, a 21-year-old Riverside, Calif. native and team leader with 1st Squad.
The patience paid off when the operation yielded several large caches. The largest cache, which was found by Weapons Company, contained over 50 mortar rounds, 10 rocket propelled grenades, 6 RPG launchers, over 40 radios configured to set off improvised explosive devices, 11 rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and 5 complete mortar systems with firing data to G Company’s base.
The operation left the Marines with the taste of success in their mouths. Now that they know that this type of operation can produce results like this, they are eager to do it again.
“I hope that we do a mission like this again, we really need to,” added Fugate.
“We should definitely do it again,” added Duigan. “The small sweeps we do turn up things here and there. This company operation found a lot more. It’s going to force the insurgents to try and mix their game up a little bit.