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Warpigs of 1st LAR hand off smuggling search in northern Iraq

SAHL SINJAR, Iraq – For the past75 days, the Marines and sailors of Company C, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion have been living and operating in the open areas near the Sinjar Mountains of northern Iraq to interdict smuggling on the Iraqi-Syrian border. After this extended period, the “Warpigs” recently turned over responsibility of the region to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division so that they may return to Sinjar Airfield for further missions.


Cpl. Dean Davis

“Initially we didn’t see much smuggling until we came north of the Sinjar Mountains and in the past month we have seen it every day,” said Capt. Matthew Miller, commanding officer of Charlie Company, 1st LAR Bn. “We have worked continually to search every vehicle and person coming over and leaving to ensure nothing illegal is going across.”

Taking a chance at smuggling on the border can be a tempting opportunity to turn a profit, but it will be met with consequence, explained Miller.

“Smuggling has been happening for a long time here,” said Miller, 35, from Detroit, Mich. “We have become such a presence here that the people know what we are watching and they will come and tell us if something is going across, because they know that if they don’t, we will find it and then we will shut down [all movement].”

That relationship isn’t going to change because a new unit is here either, explained Capt. Robert M. Barnhart Jr., commanding officer of Mobile Assault Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“We will meet every situation with the sturdy professionalism that is a United States Marine. We will also conduct engagements with the Iraqi Security Forces as well as some of the local government leaders in order to gain more information on this area,” said Barnhart, 31, a native of Agat, Guam. “We can’t be everywhere and the border is porous so we have to be creative in how we spread our forces across the battle space. Working with the Warpigs has been great. We were able to gain some rapport with local leaders and learn some of their procedures that have worked well for them.”

Company C can now take some time to refocus their effort toward other security operations, knowing that their area is well manned, explained Miller.

“This has been one of the most enjoyable missions I have been able to lead. The Marines have done a fantastic job over the last 75 days and have continued to maintain their discipline in the snow, rain and sub-freezing temperatures and keep doing what they do, and that’s getting the mission done.”