NINEWA PROVINCE, Iraq --
Since the Marine Corps is known for its expeditionary prowess, maybe one of the best examples of this trait can be found in Iraq’s Ninewa province. Patrolling the terrain of northern Iraq, the Marines of 3rd Platoon, Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, have spent the bulk of their deployment staying true to this expeditionary mindset by remaining ‘outside the wire’ to interdict smuggling.
“The work these Marines do is tough and they do a phenomenal job every time,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Lepper, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon. “The highlight of this deployment has been seeing the Marines out in the field for 75 days at a time with no complaints and happy to do the job they are assigned. I couldn’t ask for a better platoon of Marines.”
Occasionally the platoon returns to Sahl Sinjar Airfield, a remote airstrip here, but ask 1st Lt. John W. Heald, commander of 3rd Platoon, and he will tell you, that like the rest of the Marines in his platoon, he would rather be out operating in the desert and villages.
“It has been rough at times, but this platoon is very tight, which improves any situation,” said Heald. “Being out for this long and living out of the vehicles like this forced us to adapt.”
Adapting to living conditions has given way to a unique cohesion amongst the platoons as well, which are essential to missions like the one the platoon carried out recently, said Heald.
“When you go into these smaller villages, most of what we know comes from our scouts on the ground,” said Heald. “These cities are tight and difficult to navigate through at times, so the implicit communication that was fostered over the months in the field outside the wire has helped with that. It has been really impressive to watch these guys work.
“Also, I think that it may be difficult for some of the younger Marines to grasp the tangible benefits of this deployment, but for the older ones, they are happy to see how much Iraq has changed since their previous deployments because it means everything we did worked.”
Sgt. Saul Pando, chief scout for 3rd Platoon, can attest to that concept as he is now wrapping up his sixth deployment to Iraq.
“Over the last few years in Iraq things have definitely changed, but Marines don’t change their standards,” said Pando. “Sometimes we need to be providing humanitarian aid and sometimes we need to search like we did today. That’s the nature of the Marine Corps though. These Marines get that, and they know when to sink their teeth in.”
If there is ever a group of Marines ready to sink their teeth in or pull back and help; it may well be 3rd Platoon, who will continue to do what Marines do best, explained Lepper.
“I think that we are at a stage in the war where we can let the Iraqi Security Forces take over,” said Lepper. “I have seen them operate and they are working well without much help from [Coalition Forces]. The Marine Corps is an expeditionary organization and during this deployment in [Ninewa province] we have proven that day after day. These men will do what Marines do, regardless of conditions, and do a fine job.”
For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.