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CAAT Comes Through

4 Nov 2004 | Lance Cpl. Zachary R. Frank 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines of Combined Anti-Armor Team One sat ready in their vehicles as the quick-reaction force for Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, when they received word Oct. 27 that fellow Marines were under attack.

The 1st Platoon of the battalion's Alpha Company had been patrolling when they began taking rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. CAAT-1 was quickly dispatched to render assistance.

Upon arriving at the scene, the QRF established a security perimter, allowing the Marines to treat casualties and assess damage.

"The Marines performed their emergency-action drills flawlessly," said 2nd Lt. Mark L. Saye, the CAAT platoon commander and a native of California, Md.

With the CAAT Marines providing security, the Alpha Company Marines regrouped and resumed their patrol.

Tasked with transporting casualties back to the base here, CAAT loaded up two injured Marines and headed out. With speed essential, the Marines made their way through the busy area streets, trying to avoid anything that might delay the evacuation.

As they approached the base, a large explosion rocked the convoy. The second humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device, constructed with two 130 mm mortar rounds and hidden along the side of the road.

Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Cote of Terre Hill, Pa., was in the turret of the fourth vehicle when the IED detonated.

"I saw the flash of the IED and then I heard the boom," he said. "That's how it usually works."

Following the blast, the Marines began receiving small-arms fire from a neighboring field. All weapons shifted in the direction of the enemy fire.

"We suppressed them very quickly," said Cote, who fired 60 rounds during the exchange.

"No one was injured by the IED, but it did halt the convoy just a few miles shy of the base.

The encounter was costing them time, and getting the casualties back remained the top priority. Marines from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit arrived within minutes, enabling CAAT to proceed.

Inside the battalion aid station, Navy doctors determined that none of the injuries was serious. The Marines would be able to return to duty.

The mission demonstrated CAAT's ability to handle different situations on short notice.

"We go days where we don't have tasks or missions, but we also get days like this," said Saye. "Either way, we stand by to act as the battalion's reaction force."

The evacuation mission was the first in a four-day streak of operations that put CAAT on the road for the better part of three days. Since arriving in Iraq in July, the two platoons of CAAT have completed more than 275 missions in northern Babil province, most of them while serving as a quick-reaction force or an escort for personnel and supplies.