HAQLANIYAH, Iraq --
What began as a normal day for Marines and Iraqi Police at a traffic control-point (TCP) here, quickly changed when a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated at the position.
“It was like any other day at the control-point,” said Lance Cpl. Samuel J. Kauahquo, a squad automatic weapon gunner with 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2. “It was hot as usual. Nothing was going on that seemed suspicious or out of the ordinary, so it was a surprise to me when it happened.”
On that afternoon, minutes before the blast, Kauahquo relieved a Marine on post and began searching vehicles at the checkpoint.
“I was searching cars and people to make sure they were coming through one at a time and weren’t carrying any weapons on them, when an IP (Iraqi policeman) and I noticed a car slowly creeping toward us,” Kauahquo said. “At this time, there was only one other car coming through. As he kept creeping forward, we conducted escalation of force procedures.”
The vehicle continued to move slowly towards the Marines and Iraqi police at the TCP, even after a flare was fired.
“The car started moving past the HESCO barriers, and all I could think was ‘oh no please don’t be a VBIED’,” said Cpl. Benjamin W. Davidson, the squad leader for 1st squad.
The IP working with Kauahquo fired a warning shot as the vehicle crept closer; again the vehicle did not stop.
At this point, sure the vehicle was hostile, the IP fired into the vehicle and hit the driver.
“When the vehicle was approximately 50 meters away, I raised my weapon to fire. The car then exploded before I could fire, and debris went everywhere,” said Kauahquo, a native of Minneola, Texas.
After the explosion, Marines immediately began to secure the area and search for secondary threats.
“We closed the TCP right away due to damage to the barriers at the control-point,” said Davidson, a Phoenix, native. “That night, engineers came out and had the TCP back up and running the following morning. I was surprised how fast they worked.”
The speed in which the checkpoint was repaired sent a critical message to terrorists that their tactics are not effective.
“It let the people know we’re still going to be here and do what we do, whether the enemy tries to harm us or not,” said 22-year-old Davidson. “Getting it repaired quickly also shows the people we’re still here for them. A lot of local people wouldn’t have been able to commute to and from work if the TCP would’ve been closed for a long period of time.”
As quickly as the TCP was operational, so were the Coalition Forces involved in the explosion. Other than Kauahquo, who received shrapnel fragments in his left forearm, and the IP working with him, who received fragment wounds in his leg and arm, no other Coalition Force personnel were injured in the blast.
According to Davidson, Kauahquo is lucky the injuries he received were not more severe.
“After I heard the blast, all I could think about was Kauahquo and how badly he was injured,” said Davidson. “I was surprised when he came back to the post with the minor injuries that he had.”
“I was bleeding, but it took me a while to realize I had been hit because my adrenaline was going. I didn’t feel the pain at first,” Kauahquo said.
Since the explosion, Kauahquo said he has become even more vigilant and strict with the way he performs his job at the TCP.
“I realize that something can happen like this at any time,” said Kauahquo. “It lets you know how important it is not to become complacent and always stay on your toes.”
The day’s event are a reminder to the Marines and sailors to stay vigilant as they continue operating on this deployment, but it also highlights the success 1/3 is having in the Hadithah Triad. The minor damage caused by the explosion and the quick rebuilding of the TCP sent a pointed message to the insurgents and showed the resourcefulness and will of the men of 1/3.