CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, RAMADI, Iraq -- Hearing the words Task Force Ironhawk brought much needed relief to Marines and Soldiers of the 2nd Marine Division conducting operations here.
The task force was made up of soldiers from the 224th Engineer Battalion comprised of National Guardsmen based out of Iowa with personnel from surrounding states. The team was responsible for clearing landmines and improvised explosive devices from the streets and roadways of western Iraq.
“From strictly a morale perspective,” said 1st Lt. David E. Saunders of the 2nd Marine Division’s G-3 Engineer section, “if Task Force Ironhawk cleared the road before an operation, Marines and soldiers knew they had a better chance of coming home.”
The teams did more than just boost morale. Their road-clearing and IED removal set the stage for numerous operations allowing troops unlimited access to IED laden areas previously thought to be impassable.
“Their teams were operationally critical. The enemy was using IED’s as a defense to protect against our forces entering an area,” Sanders said. “They cleared the roads so units could get to their objective.”
Without Ironhawk, many of the operations conducted throughout western Iraq would not have been possible. They removed more than 550 IED’s and landmines from the Al Anbar province since their arrival in January. The most effective and dramatic impact on troops here was felt in and around the densely populated city of Ar Ramadi, where insurgent activity is concentrated and IED attacks nearly a daily occurrence. The task force was often called upon to execute specific operations making the tight alleyways and constrictive streets passable for U.S. troops and vehicles.
“In urban area’s like Ramadi, they proved incredibly effective,” said Lt. Col. Jeff W. Miller, the 2nd Marine Division’s engineer officer. “They took risks and went into areas and did things that many thought couldn’t be done.”
Using their heavy equipment and armored vehicles, they swept through the streets removing IED’s and land mines with relative ease. Their seemingly effortless removal of the insurgent’s most effective weapons against coalition troops has forced the insurgency here to reevaluate their tactics.
“I think they’ve frustrated the insurgent’s,” Miller said. “They risk their lives and put a lot of effort into planting IED’s. Then along comes Ironhawk and scoops them out of the dirt and drives away. They are forced to put even more effort into their IED’s.”
In addition to clearing the way for troops conducting operations, the 224th routinely cleared the main supply routes that connect the many camps here. With thousands of Marines, soldiers and sailors in the 2nd Marine Division the logistics requirements to support them meant the constant transfer of food, water, fuel and equipment from camp to camp, and the 224th cleared the way.
“Ironhawk kept our lines of communication open,” said Saunders. “They made the major routes safer to travel and made it harder for the enemy to disrupt our daily operations.”
The National Guard soldiers recently began their redeployment back to their home states, but have left a lasting impression upon the Marines of the 2nd Marine Division.
“They came out here and did better than the Marine Corps ever thought it could be done and they saved a lot of lives in doing so.” Miller said.