SAHL SINJAR, Iraq (13 November, 2008) --
As Task Force Ninewa, a ground-combat element built around 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, moved into the area west of Mosul, Company C, 1st LAR Bn led the way to restrict criminal activity in a place uninhabited by a Marine force of its size for nearly two decades.
“We are gathering information on the area so we can identify routes and safe havens for foreign fighters and smuggling coming in from Syria,” said Capt. Matthew Miller, commander of Company C, 1st LAR Bn. “Now that the Marines have established a presence here, it’s likely that foreign fighter facilitators will initially change their routes or hides. But once they realize we’re not going anywhere they will either try to avoid us or attack us.”
Whether the insurgents hide or fight, Marines of Company C, “Warpig,” were ready to combat either one, explained Cpl. John O. Nilsen, a light armored vehicle crewman with Company C, 1st LAR Bn.
“It’s interesting that this could potentially be some of the last combat operations for Marines in Iraq,” said Nilsen, who came back into the Marine Corps shortly after the beginning of the war. “It won’t be long before the (insurgents) feel the pressure to use this area, and we will be here to stop them. This is what I came back in to do.”
After reconnaissance of the open area, Company C moved into the wadis and caverns of the Sinjar Mountains to survey some of the routes smugglers and facilitators have been using.
“It’s clear that people were living here and were trying to hide the cave openings,” said Miller. “There’s nothing in them at the moment, but people are obviously moving through here.”
Though security in the urban areas has been handed over to Iraqi Security Forces, the Marines’ presence has been welcomed by the people in the area, said Nilsen.
“An essential part of counterinsurgency is convincing the local population that you’re here to help them, said Nilsen, 30, from Phoenix, Az. “Those out there who cause the Iraqi people harm or attack us had better be looking over their shoulder though, because we’re coming to get them.”