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1/23 Marines disrupt insurgents around Ramadi

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20051511826
Story by Cpl. Paul W. Leicht

AR RAMADI, Iraq (Jan. 05, 2005) -- The moonlit midnight hour only faintly illuminated the shadowy-team of Marines who crept across the muddy, fenced in yard around a drab farmhouse in the small Iraqi village.

With security in place, only a few muted cows looked on unobtrusively through the fog as the warriors stacked tightly one-by-one at the metal front door, ready to rapidly dump through like a belt-fed weapon.

Another Marine rushed alongside them and tossed in a flash-bang grenade before pouring inside with the rest of the team to the crack of his command, "GO! NOW!"

The grenade boomed. Voices barked and raised weapons swept each room as the occupants stopped in their tracks. Then the all clear was given.

The Texas and Lousiana reservists were conducting a nightly cordon and knock raid.

"The goal of this cordon and knock mission is part of a larger effort to maintain security and stability by disrupting the insurgency in our area of operations prior to elections," said Staff Sergeant Jesse A. Noriega, platoon commander, Company B, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment. "Our company's raids thus far have been very productive. We have done a good job of detaining high value targets and people with suspected terrorist ties as well as their weapons caches."

In addition to high value targets, any males of military age with suspected ties to terrorists are typically detained during the raids for questioning.

"Some of the detainees are just people in the wrong place at the wrong time while we go after specific high value targets," explained the police officer from San Antonio, Texas. "What we are doing is more surgical rather than wide sweeps. It's safer for our Marines and a more effective way to find insurgents."

In order to maintain good relations with innocent village residents and farmers, the Marines work with local leaders and explain what is going on prior to any special mission kick off.

Before doors were kicked in, the Marines convoyed to the general area, dismounting from their grumbling seven-ton trucks and Humvees on a dirt road that cut a nearby farm paddy, and then advanced on the objectives on foot using stealth, discipline and surprise.

"Sometimes all the wild dogs barking out here can be quite loud and can take away from the element of surprise," said Lance Cpl. Matt O'Connor, a machine gunner with "Bravo" Co.'s 3rd platoon and a 21-year-old bartender from San Antonio, Texas. "But the Iraqis normally pay them no mind."

Once at the objective, a cordon and knock first involves searching the entire area and sealing off the structure with suspected high value targets.

"After setting up our perimeter security, our leaders then recon to the objective before Marines stack at the door," said Lance Cpl. Gary Cremeans, machine gunner, 3rd platoon, Bravo Co., and a 24-year-old heating, ventilating and air-conditioning technician from Austin, Texas. "Then we dump into the house."

At all times the Rules of Engagement are strictly adhered to. Occupants are treated with dignity and respect, and shots are not fired unless suspects or targets show intent to harm Marines with a deadly weapon.

"Sometimes specific targets are not there despite the latest intelligence that we have," said Noriega. "Terrorist targets or insurgents, as well as any possible armed security they may have, will not always stay in the village or in a certain house. Many times they use people to hide weapons or (improvised explosive device) making materials before an attack."

While some Marines conduct a thorough search or secure detainees, Navy corpsmen attend to the elderly, women and children-if any are present-to calm them and give them basic medical care if needed.

Even though the Marines may return to their camp without their intended targets or confiscated weapons in tow, their cordon and knock efforts are making a positive difference.

"The detainees will be interrogated and if they check out, will be released back to their homes," said Noriega. "This time we detained the brother of one of our targets and a few others in addition to some electronic devices used for making IEDs, but hopefully we're reminding them that we are out here looking for them, keeping them on the run until we catch them."

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