Lima Company was attacked by an IED in Barwanah with no damages or injuries. Source: First Marine Division Press Release
IEDs no deterrent for Hawaii-based Marines in Al Anbar Province
By Sgt. Roe F. Seigle
1st Marine Division
March 28, 2006
BARWANAH, Iraq (March 28, 2006) — Hawaii-based Marines searching a known hotspot for insurgent-placed “improvised explosive devices” say the danger posed by these deadly devices do not deter them from providing security to the local populace here.
The Marines operating in this western Al Anbar Province town had one detonate only a few feet from them during a recent patrol and search operation in this town along the Euphrates River.
When the explosion occurred, the Marines, from Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, were teaching Iraqi Soldiers the tactics and procedures used by insurgents who place IEDs.
Since January 2005, IEDs have accounted for about 50 percent of all U.S. fatalities in Iraq, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count – an organization which tallies U.S. and coalition casualties based off Department of Defense press releases.
The IED explosion was the first hostile action against the Marines from Lima Company since their arrival here.
Despite the threat of IEDs, the Marines insist they will not be deterred from training the Iraqi Security Forces “in high military standards” while establishing a good relationship with the Iraqi people and the Iraqi soldiers they are working hand-in-hand with on a daily basis.
“I know the insurgents responsible for this attack did this to see how far they can push us and to try to make us step down from establishing law and order here,” said Sgt. Joshua Wartchow, a 22-year-old squad leader. “This just makes the Marines more determined and cautious.”
Directly after the blast, the Marines witnessed the suspected triggerman flee back into a village.
Before the make-shift bomb detonated, the Marines were teaching soldiers from the Iraqi Army the known tactics and procedures of how insurgents place improvised explosive devices. According to one Iraqi soldier, “Ahmad,” the experience was ironic and eye-opening.
Ahmad said that IEDs are a common occurrence in Iraq, but he has never had an up-close and personal encounter with one like he did March 24.
Wartchow was less than 15 feet from the device when it detonated.
“I remember it feel like I was in slow motion,” recalled Wartchow, a native of Doylestown, Pa. “I saw it explode and dust go everywhere. I felt it throw my body back from the hill I was standing on.”
He said other Marines in the area could not see him after the blast because it pushed him down the hill they were standing on.
“I did not even think about the fact that I could have been seriously injured,” said Wartchow. “I just wanted to find the triggerman.”
Although this was the first IED experience for these Marines, IEDs are not new to the Al Anbar Province, which was once a hot bed of insurgent activity. IEDs used to be part of the daily regimen for many U.S. servicemembers, until Marines and Coalition Forces wiped out the foreign fighters seven months ago.
Still, the experience was an eye-opener for some, a reminder that though locals in this small town are waving and children are greeting the Marines and Iraqi soldiers, Iraq is still a war zone.
Now, Marines have to be even more on the alert, combat complacency, and keep an eye out for potentially hidden bombs.
“I knew we had Marines in the area of the explosion,” said 1st Lt. Eric Montgomery, a platoon commander with Lima Co. “I was ready to call for a medical evacuation. I found out no one was injured when I arrived on the scene to assist.”
Still, the Marines leave nothing to chance. They will continue to maintain a strong presence here to disrupt insurgent activity. Moreover, the Marines say their kindness should be not be mistaken for weakness.
“The insurgents are going to realize that Lima Company is not a poorly-trained unit,” said Montgomery, 24. “We will continue to establish a presence here. We will also be proactive and aggressive in finding the insurgents.”
Montgomery believes the Iraqi Army unit partnered with Marines here is steadily learning to conduct independent operations and its soldiers are making bounds in progress toward relieving Coalition forces here.
“The Iraqi Army is learning quickly,” said Montgomery, a native of Cary, N.C. “As they continue to improve and the number of insurgents steadily decrease, Coalition forces will be able to withdraw.”