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Charlie 1/2 supports Army's 1st BCT in As Suwayrah

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200515112622
Story by Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Smith

AS SUWAYRAH, Iraq (Jan. 3, 2005) -- In a large hangar at an abandoned airfield once used by one of Saddam Hussein's most feared units - the Medina Armored Division of the Republican Guard - Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit rang in the new year hoping to ring up anti-Iraqi insurgents.

The Marines from Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, came here Dec. 31 for three days to lend a hand to U.S. Army units looking for militants operating in the area.

"We're here to support the Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team cordon-and-search operation to the north," said Capt. David W. Handy, 30, Charlie Company commander. "The Army's mission was to push through and round up insurgents that may have fled from Fallujah. It's our job ... to catch them trying to flee from the Army up north."

With the command post set up, Charlie Company began round-the-clock operations from the airfield, conducting vehicle and foot patrols and setting up checkpoints in the nearby towns and villages.

"On the vehicle patrols we had one platoon from the company, an Army tactical (psychological operations) team, and an Army civil affairs team go out," said Handy.

During the patrols, the Marines worked with their Army counterparts to pass out flyers containing information about the upcoming elections and the mission of the coalition forces. They also spent a lot of time talking to local residents about their quality of life, identifying their concerns - such as inadequate electricity - and discussing how the Marines could help.

"They weren't used to seeing us in that area," said Cpl. Ronald A. Jeter, 22, of Durango, Colo., an analyst with the MEU's command element.

To catch insurgents off guard, Charlie Company set up one of its hasty vehicle checkpoints after flying into the area aboard CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 - the MEU's aviation combat element.

"The point of dropping Marines off by (helicopter) to set up a (vehicle check point) was so we didn't give insurgents the chance to see us coming and turn in the opposite direction," said Staff Sgt. Michael S. Smith, 31, platoon sergeant with Charlie Company. "Not only is it a way to possibly catch insurgents fleeing from the Army's operation to the north, but it's a show of force in an area that has seen little of the coalition forces."

While their efforts didn't lead to the capture of any suspected anti-Iraqi forces, the Marines judged the operation a success.

"It was a good interaction with the locals," said Jeter. "(We) didn't catch any bad guys, but what we did find out was it's a better area then most. Our presence seemed to make the locals feel secure."

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