FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Seven months ago, the city’s crumbling buildings and nearly empty streets greeted the Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. Major combat operations had ceased in Fallujah, but the ruins and desolation all around spoke of a conflict not long past.
It was up to Marines like Elizabeth City, N.C. native, Cpl. Mychal McVicker, and his team to help restore order and stability to the war-torn city’s people. A task they eagerly set out to tackle.
McVicker, who had served a combat tour in Afghanistan in 2004, was once again overseas to fight terrorism. Whereas his unit had aggressively hunted Taliban fighters through the mountainous terrain last year, a mission more of community policing and reconstruction awaited the warriors here.
“At first, you could see that it was a shock for people to see us around,” said McVicker, a 2001 College of the Albemarle graduate.
At the time, many citizens who had evacuated Fallujah were being admitted back into their city, and were unaccustomed to seeing military patrols move about the streets. McVicker’s 2nd Combined Anti-Armor Team from Weapons Company received many curious stares as they patrolled Northern Fallujah in their armored trucks, something they would do for days at a time to constantly monitor for insurgent activity.
Additionally, Weapons Company Marines baked underneath the scorching summer sun as they watched roadways leading into the city for people setting up improvised explosive devices, which claimed the lives of four of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s troops during their time here. Second CAAT Marines killed two insurgents during these observation missions.
“Sometimes, we would sit in place for anywhere between eight to sixteen hours at a time, just observing likely spots where the enemy might set in IEDs,” explained 1st Lt. Frank Mease, 2nd CAAT’s commander. “Altogether, this team unearthed six IEDs. The battalion as a whole did really well in decreasing the amount of IED-related incidents.”
While not out keeping watch over Fallujah’s transit routes, McVicker’s Marines supported the battalion’s foot-mobile infantrymen by providing them extra security during numerous raids and house-to-house sweeps. CAAT and other Weapons Company personnel would wire off and surround entire neighborhoods as they oriented their vehicle-mounted automatic weapons to face outboard. Inside this sector, Marines and Iraqi soldiers remained safe from outside attacks as they searched the target homes.
“We took some strain off the other companies by providing Marines to man this outer cordon (defensive perimeter),” McVicker stated.
During these “Hard Knocks”, as battalion personnel dubbed these missions, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment personnel confiscated several assault rifles, hand grenades, ammunition and IED-making material over a period of four months.
These Marines did more than sit in place, however, as they routinely punched out city-wide patrols to police the streets and keep them free of insurgent activity. Their vehicle assets allowed CAAT Marines to cover more area than a regular foot patrol could in much less time.
McVicker said he enjoyed interacting with the local community during these missions, and will soon leave Iraq believing his team made a positive impact.
“I got to see a different culture here, and I believe we helped make a difference in the lives of these people,” he stated. “The battalion detained several HVTs (high value target personnel). You can see homes being rebuilt now and less IEDs are going off in the area.”