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Marines, Iraqi soldiers recover M-16 rifle from insurgent sniper team

HADITHA, Iraq (Oct. 15, 2006) - U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers serving in Haditha, Iraq, recovered an M-16A4 service rifle from insurgents, Oct. 11, 2006.


Story and photos by Cpl. Luke Blom, Combat Correspondent, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment

Editor"s Note: This article was originally written in October, however, its publication was postponed due to operational security reasons.

Marines from the Hawaii-based Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, detained one insurgent and killed another when they engaged insurgents in this city of approximately 30,000 nestled along the Euphrates River in the western reaches of Iraq"s Al Anbar Province

The recovered rifle belonged to a Marine scout sniper team from 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, a Marine Corps reserve battalion based in Brook Park, Ohio, which was ambushed in Haditha, Aug. 1, 2005.

The 3rd Bn., 25th Marine Regiment scout sniper team was conducting counterinsurgency operations in Haditha when their position was overrun by insurgents, who escaped with the Marines" rifles.

Sgt. John D. Hunsberger, a 27-year-old from Parker, Colo., feels that "justice was served" when U.S. and Iraqi forces recovered the rifle.

"It"s a tragedy what happened to the scout snipers from 3/25, and it"s hard to think of someone using our own weapons against us," said Hunsberger, part of a military transition team in Haditha. "But we got the weapon back and took a couple bad guys off the street."

Along with the seized M-16, the Marines and Iraqi soldiers also confiscated the insurgents" vehicle, as well as a video camera and black ski masks.

When Hunsberger"s team tracked the vehicle, engaged it with small-arms fire and detained one insurgent, they discovered the stolen U.S. service rifle.

"I was really surprised when I saw an M-16 instead of an AK-47," said Hunsberger. "Immediately I knew that these guys shouldn"t have this weapon."

When word spread of Hunsberger"s discovery, Marines" reaction in Haditha was immediate:

"I"m not going to lie - it was exciting to get the rifle back and get (the insurgents) off the streets," said Capt. Matthew Tracy, Echo Co. commander, and 32 year-old from Hartford, Conn. "All the Marines in the company were excited when they heard the news."

"The fact that we got back one of our rifles makes it all the more satisfying," said Lance Cpl. Zachary Drill, infantryman and 21-year-old native of Three Lakes, Wis.

The Marines weren"t the only ones excited to have one less group of insurgents operating in Haditha.

Iraqi soldiers, who have been searching for this particular group of insurgents for some time, were also visibly enthusiastic at the news of the apprehension.

"We are all very happy that the snipers were caught," said "Hamud," an Iraqi soldier and squad leader who was involved in the detainment of the insurgents. "These people have shot many times at both Iraqis and Americans. It is very good news."

"The IA soldiers performed like I"ve seen them perform everyday out here - very well," said Tracy. "Marines have fought side-by-side with them for almost three years, and the way they"re performing right now would make any Marine proud."

For the Marines, the catch is a bit of "pay-back" wrapped in justice against the enemy.

"The Marines definitely felt a little personal about these guys (insurgents) but they handled themselves with complete professionalism," added Tracy. "We felt like we achieved some justice for the Marines of 2/3 and 3/25 who have been injured by these guys."

In related news, Coalition Forces in Hit, Iraq - a city of about 60,000 located 35 miles northwest of Ramadi - killed six insurgents, wounded four and netted five sniper rifles Oct. 21.

Coalition Forces positively identified 10 males conducting insurgent activity in a parking lot prior to engaging them with a heavy volume of fire.

The insurgents were gathered around a car while distributing black masks, AK-47 assault rifles and rocket propelled grenade launchers to one another.

After the engagement Coalition Forces personnel searched three insurgent vehicles in the parking lot and captured various weapons, to include sniper rifles, rifle magazines, AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, hand grenades, and black masks.

"Today was significant for Coalition Forces because it reduced the sniper threat in Hit by a considerable margin," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas Graves, commanding officer for the Friedburg, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment.

"We will take advantage of this opportunity by continuing our efforts to develop Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police forces within Hit," said Graves.

1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment is the Coalition Forces unit responsible for training Iraqi Security Forces and providing security to the city of Hit.

Coalition Forces evacuated the four wounded insurgents to a nearby U.S. military medical facility for treatment. Their condition is unknown at this time.