NINEWEH PROVINCE, Iraq --
Knowing the terrain is crucial to warfare, and these Marines know the terrain.
Route reconnaissance and area reconnaissance were some of the first missions for the “Diablos” of Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division since they officially took over their new area of operations here Nov. 10.
Although the Marines replaced an Army unit and could very well have gathered recon secondhand, they opted to see for themselves.
“Getting a chance to see the ground is far better than reading a report or getting a power point presentation,” said 1st Lt. Robert J. Bibeau, platoon commander, Company D.
One of Bibeau’s scouts, Lance Cpl. Russel L. Pope, said the reason for personally inspecting the real estate is that people make mistakes, and they don’t always catch everything. Pope also said terrain has a nasty tendency of changing.
“We do our own recon because everything changes every day. You could write a report one day, and then the next day something needs to be added,” said Pope, 24, Livingston, Texas.
As the terrain changes, Marines may use different supply routes. It always pays to give resupply vehicles, which are not as versatile as LAVs, multiple avenues of approach.
“You need to be able to provide the commander with critical info so he knows where he could flow forces and to help him make the decision about how he’s going to support those forces,” said Bibeau, 27, Moriarty, N.M.
Small groups of LAR Marines live and operate out in the country, off of, and far away from, the supply base. Being such an island, it’s important to identify routes of resupply, not to mention possible insurgent resupply routes.
“It’s important for fighting the insurgency that we find the possible egress and ingress routes they take to get in and out of the country, so we can stop the flow of insurgents,” said Sgt. Timothy A. Cramer, chief scout, Company D.
Cramer, 28, Mesa, Ariz., said route and area recon missions can get repetitive and mentally arduous at times, but that their strategic benefits outweigh the costs in time.
“It’s time consuming, recon is, it takes a lot of patience,” said “There’s a large amount of area we have to cover, the amount of details we have to report, but it’ll help us hunt the bad guys,” said Cramer.
Information isn’t always perfect or all conclusive. Bibeau said some intelligence may only clue leaders in to an enemy movement, but not the size of the force or the particular type of unit. Knowing the terrain enables commanders to put themselves in an advantageous position prior to making contact with an enemy of unknown size or capability.
“The reconnaissance will provide us with a base, a knowledge base, and as our knowledge base develops, we can start focusing on future (operations),” said Bibeau.
Once Marines know the oft-used trade routes and villages, they know what townspeople with whom they should make friends. For these Marines, the human dimension of warfare needs as much mapping as the geography.
“Recon is no longer just about terrain, it’s about getting to know the people as well,” said Bibeau, “(in order) to yield the capture of (High Valued Targets) and gain further (intelligence).”
The Marines of Company D, 1st LAR, make up one element of the first Marine Air Ground Task Force outside Anbar in Iraq since 2004. They traveled to the Nineweh province to kick off Operation Defeat Al Qaeda in the North II, an operation aimed at stamping out the insurgency just west of the restive city of Mosul.