NINEWEH PROVINCE, Iraq --
Watch out Al-Qaeda, the Marines have just set up shop.
The “Diablos” of Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, accepted responsibility for battle space in the Nineweh province Nov. 10. The Diablos relieved soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
“(This inter-service teamwork) speaks volumes about the Marine Corps,” said Sergeant 1st Class James L. Price, platoon sergeant, scout platoon, Eagle Troop, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “Our (changeover) with the Marine Corps is a little smoother than traditional Army battle-space changeovers. The high caliber of the armored cavalry and the elite nature of the Marine Corps, they mesh a little better.”
Price, 42, from Houston, mentioned the advantage the Marines will have because of their organic troop carrier, the Light Armored Vehicle. The LAV has eight wheels, carries a capacity of six riflemen, a three-man crew, and boasts a 25 mm machinegun in the turret.
LAVs can reach out and touch the enemy from a distance, or drive up and drop off Marines for a more in-close-and-personal approach. In short, range and terrain are no obstacles for the LAV.
“They can saturate the area a little better than we can,” concluded Price.
Saturating the area is key to LARs’ mission in their area of the Ninewah Province, located just west of the restive city of Mosul. While the relieved soldiers refocus their efforts on stabilizing Mosul, the Marines’ maintain a presence west. The companies in LAR will become the figurative “anvil” to the soldiers’ “hammer,” by catching any fleeing insurgents.
“We’ll provide a backstop to their operations in Mosul,” said Captain Keith P. Tighe, commanding officer, Company D, 1st LAR.
Just because they’re the anvil, doesn’t mean they’ll become static. While the Marines remain on the prowl for insurgents fleeing out of the city, they also plan to pursue and prevent any reinforcements from coming into the city.
“My task at the end of the day is to interdict,” said Tighe, “deny them terrain, and prevent their operations.”
Tigh said that “saturation,” or an overwhelming presence, may cause a knee-jerk reaction in insurgent and foreign fighter facilitator organizations.
“Once they know I’m sitting on the terrain, just my presence will disrupt their operations,” said Tighe, 39, Sacramento, Calif. Tigh said that seeing new cammies, new faces, and new vehicles patrolling in new places may cause a stutter step in every day insurgency operations.
To help exploit that stutter step, Tigh and his Marines plan to coordinate not only with the American Army, but the Iraqi Army.
“At any moment of the day, any time you need me, we will support you,” said Col. Fathy Ismail Afdeo, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 11 Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division. “We are one family, one unit, I will back you up and you will back us up, our goal is one.”
Mission accomplishment for the Diablos is to enable stabilization of Mosul by maintaining presence in towns, villages and along trade routes used by FFF and insurgents. Marines here said LAR is just the type of unit needed for this task.
“We can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, (and) wherever they go we can get to ‘em, we can chase (insurgents) anywhere, regardless of terrain,” said Cpl. Brandon M. Heffner, LAV crewman, Company D, 1st LAR.
Heffner, 22, Redding, Calif., and other Marines with LAR said they were excited to begin combat operations in the Nineweh province. For the Diablos, confidence was not hard to come by.
“We don’t need much support, we have dismount capabilities, weapons capabilities, we can hit ‘em in town, hit ‘em in the fields, it doesn’t matter,” said Heffner. “Eventually they’re going to run out of places to run to.”
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.