CENTRAL IRAQ -- Marines from Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Bn, 2nd Marines have spearheaded the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) into combat operations in Iraq. Much of their success can be attributed to the efforts of Fox Company, who experienced some of the first enemy resistance encountered by the MEU, and have accomplished some remarkable missions along the way.
On their first day of operations in theater, Fox Co. was tasked with clearing an anti-aircraft artillery site just north of the city of As Ashatrah.
"From that mission we recovered numerous gas masks, chemical suits, ammunition, anti aircraft weapons, and bayonets," said Maj. Brian Neil, Fox Co. commander. "We destroyed 10 anti aircraft weapons and secured the site."
After the MEU received intelligence on the whereabouts of the body of a Marine from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 based in Yuma, Az., that was killed in a convoy ambush, Fox Co. was given the mission to recover the body in the same town.
The first attempt was thwarted when a group of armed Iraqis with small arms fired on the approaching Marines and a firefight ensued. During the engagement, Marine scout snipers had one confirmed kill at 1000 meters. From a rooftop, snipers observed an adult male armed with an AK-47 assault rifle hiding behind the corner of a building and grasping the shoulder of a child in front of him as a shield.
"I shot 3 to 4 feet away from him on the face of the building, which made the kid run away and the man come out to inspect the impact," said one of the scout snipers from Surveillance Target and Acquisition platoon. "That is when my team member shot the armed individual in the chest."
The next day Fox Co. resumed their search of the body of the Marine and received resistance of a different kind. Conflicting reports between contacts led Fox Co. all over the town to find his remains. With a huge crowd following them, Fox Co. walked approximately 20 kilometers searching the local hospital, mosque and the cemetery before a promising lead was uncovered.
With the help of HUMINT exploitation Marines and translators, the Marines remained diligent and aggressive in obtaining information out of their contacts. "Finally, a 20 year old male was pinpointed as having been tasked with burying the Marine," said 1st Lt. Jeremiah Salame, Fox Co. Executive Officer. "We then took him on a patrol northeast of the town which led us to a land fill littered with trash. There were already Iraqis standing there and pointing at the spot. They knew the body was there."
Fox Co. then secured the landfill and began the process of digging up the body. The body of the Marine was in tact and still had his combat gear on with the exception of his Kevlar helmet.
"After digging him up, we then placed him in a body bag and patrolled back to the waiting ambulance," said Salome. "We rotated six Marines as pallbearers throughout the 2.3 click march back."
"Some of the crowd cheered when we dug him up," said Sgt. Nathan Rutledge, Fox Co. radio operator. "But we knew there were still people out there that wanted to kill us. Either way, we were going to accomplish our mission and bring that Marine home."
The Marine received military honors by the senior personnel who stood at attention and saluted as he was lifted into the ambulance. Soon after, a medevac helicopter was called, and the body of the Marine was flown to Kuwait where it would be directed home.
Fox Company has since assumed a blocking position and has been conducting vehicle checkpoints and searches at the crucial intersection.
From there, they await their next mission.