WESTERN AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq -- For more than two weeks, Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, conducted sweeps along the Euphrates River shore to disrupt terrorist operations in the area.
The battalion-wide Operation Red Bull consisted of Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines in the “Triad” area of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana searching more than 20 kilometers of shoreline. The search revealed 75 weapons caches terrorists planned to use during attacks in the region.
Since the battalion came to the area in early September, they have concentrated on securing and maintaining their presence in cities in the area to prevent terrorist activities. With vehicle checkpoints on roads and constant patrols where houses in the city are searched, the shoreline and palm groves near the Euphrates River provided perfect areas for insurgents to hide weapons … or so they thought.
“If we have the roads blocked and the cities under constant watch, the insurgents will adapt and use other ways to perform their operations,” said Capt. Jeffrey S. Dinsmore, a target collections officer for the battalion. “We knew the river, which isn’t much different from a road, would be the place where insurgents were transporting and hiding their equipment.”
According to Dinsmore, the battalion’s combat engineers, equipped with metal detectors and Marine instinct, helped find these tools used by insurgents in their attacks.
“Some of the caches found had everything, including hundreds of artillery shells, several bags of explosive propellant, and numerous mortars, mortar tubes and base plates,” stated the Seattle native.
Also helping the Marines and Iraqi soldiers were citizens who took a stand against the insurgent operations in the community. Many civilians provided information to disrupt insurgents so their community can be safe from terrorist attacks like the one in Barwanah, where numerous innocent children were killed or wounded from an insurgent mortar round.
“In many instances recently, the local people are standing up to insurgents, pointing out possible weapons caches and assisting us in providing safe towns,” said Dinsmore.
Finding nearly half the total weapons caches during the operation was Company L, the only line company operating on the east side of river. They found several caches, most of them included explosives and communication mechanisms used for making improvised explosive devices aimed at killing local citizens, Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Marines.
“Simply put, if you take away his bombs, he can’t blow you up,” stated 1st Lt. T. Ryan Sparks, Company L’s executive officer, when asked about finding IED making materials. “It takes a lot of money to buy stuff like that and if we take it away from (the insurgents), it makes their whole structure collapse.”
For the Marines of Company L, it was not only a way to break the monotony of their average day but also an opportunity to meet new people in the area. They searched the northern and southern outskirts of Barwana, going out farther than they ever had.
“It was great to have some new scenery and people to deal with,” said Lance Cpl. Justin K. Hansen, a Layton, Utah, native and rifleman with the company. “We’ve been concentrating on inside the city, so it was nice to go out to a new area.”
Having the operation during the holidays also helped the Marines by being on the offensive during a vulnerable time that insurgents have taken advantage of in the past. According to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion’s commanding officer, sweeping the river shoreline during that time ensured the insurgents were on the defensive and kept the Marines vigilant during the holiday season.
“The operation generated an offensive tempo to keep the insurgents on their toes,” said Chessani, a Meeker, Colo., native. “It is always best to keep on the offensive because as Marines, we trained to always be attacking.
“And by capturing his logistics, we can disrupt his ability to go on the offensive against us,” he added.
Being on the offensive also led to the capture of nearly 100 targeted insurgents in the area. With little to no equipment and the loss of many men to conduct the terrorist attacks, the Triad area became a much safer place for the Marines and the people of Iraq.
“Red Bull, and other operations to date, have painted a clear picture of the enemy’s structure and operational cycles,” Dinsmore said.
Dinsmore also said that several battalion operations are lined up for the future. Their mission: destroy the foundation of insurgent operations to maintain security for the people in the Triad area.