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Recon teams with Iraqi scout platoon in search of caches

AL KHARMA, Iraq – Dogs barked as four Iraqi soldiers advanced toward a house nestled between dirt fields outside Tharthar, Iraq. Once at the house, an Iraqi soldier questioned the male occupant as another soldier kept a watchful eye during a cache sweep in the vicinity of Al Kharma, Iraq, March 23, 2009.

http://www.mnfwest.usmc.mil/public/InfolineMarines.nsf/(ArticlesRead)/1EDC5A8A7C41CCB9432575860054174D

Story by Sgt. Dorian Gardner
March 27, 2009

A select group of soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions,1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, formed the Quick Reaction Force Scout Platoon, which led the way in one of the last integrated missions alongside Marines from 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, would conduct.

Marines and Iraqis set out early that morning, utilizing CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopters for transit into the rural farmlands east of Kharma, a small area in eastern Al Anbar province. Once there, they conducted a detailed search for arms caches and evidence of terrorist activity.

After the two helicopters departed the landing zone just beyond the edges of the farmland, reconnaissance Marines working with the Iraqi scout platoon divided their small force into two teams and proceeded north toward houses scattered across the rural landscape.

Sweeping from house to house, Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Davis, platoon sergeant of 3rd Platoon, watched as the same Iraqi soldiers who were sitting in his classroom a month prior now conducted searches without the aid of Marines.

“It was a success. [Scout platoon] is ready to go out on their own,” he said, taking note of the abilities displayed that morning.

Iraqi Army Sergeant Major Mohanad Najah Abuod led his unit as they successfully conducted tactical searches and demonstrated small-unit leadership, Davis added.

Some of the soldiers of scout platoon have been operating together since 2003 in different conflicts throughout Iraq. A seasoned unit, they came to the reconnaissance battalion in search of specialized training.

“What they needed was proper training and better methods to conduct operations and that’s what we gave them,” said Davis.

While the scout platoon combed through houses and fields, Iraqi Security Forces and Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines continued the search in a similar rural setting further south, near Al Dayb Al Hasayn. These two sweeps formed a larger Iraqi Security Force operation, and such missions have become more frequent as the command and control capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces have increased.

Although the mission did not reveal any significant finds, Iraqi units throughout the country have demonstrated their abilities to successfully conduct sweeps and searches without aid.

Even though the time Davis and his Marines spent training the Iraqi scout platoon was short, Marines and Iraqi soldiers grew fond of one another during their working partnership.

“Previous work led to unit cohesion, more so with this unit than any other” according to Cpl. David “La Fleur” Montemayor, a reconnaissance Marine with 3rd Battalion.

The Marines and the Iraqis traded unit patches, a sign of mutual respect and admiration between the two factions of elite war-fighters. They shared smiles and falafel after a successful mission and a safe return to Camp Ramadi.

Even as Marines prepare for a responsible withdrawal, these Iraqi soldiers will remain vigilant as proud protectors of their country.

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.