The ROC

On patrol with 3 Company, 3-2-1 Iraqi Army in southern Fallujah

3 Company plays soccer at The ROC. Click image to view.

FALLUJAH, IRAQ: The mission of the Police and Military Transition Teams here in Fallujah is to assist with the turnover of the city to the Iraqis. This is happening, slowly but surely. In southwestern Fallujah, 3 Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division (3-2-1) owns the battlespace of a majority of the Resafa neighborhood. Resafa was one of the last bastions of al Qaeda during the 2004 assault on the city.

3 Company is based out of a Forward Operation Base called ‘The ROC,’ which is located at the base of the southern bridge, or New Bridge, which crosses the hairpin turn in the Euphrates River. The New Bridge was closed to civilian traffic after The ROC came under repeated insurgent attacks. The compound is scarred with numerous mortar, RPG and bullet attacks. The closing of the bridge was been a point of contention between the Mayor of Fallujah and the General commanding the 2nd Iraqi Brigade during a council meeting last week.

On Patrol with 3 Company. Click image to view.

Today, there are less than a handful Marines of the 3-2-1 Military Transition Team assigned to the southwestern sector of Fallujah, and attached to 3 Company. I embedded with 3 Company and the Marine Military Transition Team at the ROC. During the embed, there were three Marines and an interpreter: Lieutenant Alan Cortez, Lance Corporals Danny Curcell and James Cvec, and Amir, the interpreter, who was a Sergeant Major in the old Iraqi Army.

The Military Transition Team for 3 Company, as well as the rest of 3rd Battalion, have truly moved into an advisory role. “They advise, assist and mentor the Iraqi Army, and what they do with this is up to them,” said Major David McCombs, the executive officer of MTT for 3rd Battalion. The other two MTTs for 1 and 2 Companies have the same role as 3 Company’s MTT.

Jundis halt at an intersection. Click image to view.

The Iraqi soldiers, or jundi, in southwestern Fallujah run multiple patrols on their own; the Marines do not accompany the jundi every time they leave the wire. They provide for their own food, ammunition, “3 Company gathers their intelligence, plan and execute their own operations,” said Lt. Cortez, the lead adviser at The ROC.

These soldiers are volunteers, and are highly motivated to kill “Ali Baba” – the name they give the insurgents. There are major shortcomings with the Iraqi Army in Fallujah: logistics, pay and the lack of heavy weapons hold the jundi back from being fully independent (this will be covered in more depth along with the police in future posts on the MTTs/PTTs). But a fighting spirit is not one of these shortcomings.

The children of Fallujah. Click image to view.

Lt Cortez, Cpl Curcell, Amir and I joined 14 jundis from 3 Company for today’s morning patrol in southwestern Fallujah. The patrol kicked off after a 7:30 briefing, and started through the tall reeds, date palm groves and small farms running along the banks of the Euphrates. Insurgents have planted bombs along the path in the past, we walked by the location where one was detonated just last week. Also, in the past sniper fire has been encountered from the east. There were no such problems today.

The jundi lieutenant commanded the patrol through the streets of Fallujah (Iraqi Army patrols are led by a lieutenant, while the senior sergeants carry the PKC machine gun and RPG , whereas Marines squads are often led by a corporal.) He and the sergeants decided which houses to search, when to stop and who to search.

The patrol from 3 Company. Click image to view.

The patrol was largely uneventful from the jundi’s perspective. Several Fallujans called the lieutenant over to provide information. The Iraqi soldier’s ability to develop local intelligence networks, understand the language and culture and know the lay of the land far outweighs any tactical deficiencies they may have. “They can tell who’s not from the area – who’s from Mosul, or Tikrit or Ramadi – just by their accent, and they can tell when someone’s lying,” said Cpl Burcell.

But Fallujah wasn’t quiet during the patrol. Just several blocks away, a patrol from Charlie Company was hit on the road parallel to our position. This road is a main supply route, and insurgents tried to ambush the Marines with RPGs and small arms fire. This is where the MTT advisers came into play. The squad halted in place and Lt. Cortez radioed in our location to ensure a friendly fire incident didn’t take place. This same patrol was hit two other times during our patrol, and once more after we returned to The ROC. No Marines were wounded during any of the attacks, and the insurgents failed to hit the vehicles even once.

North of our position a battalion sized operation was underway (likely a cordon and search). And later in the afternoon, after I returned to the Government Center, five mortars landed inside the compound. Two were duds, an Iraqi Police vehicle was hit, but no one was injured. On Friday, four insurgents were killed by helicopter gunships after they were spotted loading and transporting IEDs into a truck.

If you have enjoyed reading this post from Iraq, please consider donating to support this embed. Or, if you are not comfortable with PayPal and wish to send a check, email me at billroggio@gmail.com and I will send you an address.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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34 Comments

  • Nicholas says:

    Excellent article and great photos – thanks for posting this, Mr. Roggio!
    I spotted a couple of typos (“The compound is scared with numerous mortar, RPG and bullet attacks” and “But Fallujah wasn’t quite during the patrol.”) but that’s pretty understandable given your remote location and, I’m sure, time pressure.

  • Connie says:

    I am reading all of your reports with great interest. Hope you have met my Charlie Co son. I am proud of you and your courage to embed in such a volatile area. Stay safe!

  • Scrapiron says:

    Nicholas, did you understand the post? If so the minor mistakes mean nothing. If you did’t understand the post, reenter the 3rd grade and try harder or you will end up stuck in Irk with the traior Hanoi John. That might not be bad, he’ll show you how to skip out on a 12 month tour in 3 months.
    Good post and good information for us old war vet’s. Keep it up and keep the head down.

  • Rob says:

    Very nice post Bill. I read them, and enjoy the photos as soon as you put them out. Outstanding, and very valuable work. Thanks again for your hard work.

  • The ROC

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    On patrol with 3 Company, 3-2-1 Iraqi Army in southern Fallujah
    FALLUJAH, IRAQ: The mission of the Police and Military Transition Teams here in Fallujah is to assist with the turnover of the city to the Iraqis. This is h…

  • My prayers go out to the troops daily. Great report. I will try to visit this blog more often.

  • Nicholas says:

    Scrapiron, I don’t see why I should be insulted because I pointed out a couple of minor mistakes. I thought Mr. Roggio might want to fix them. Wouldn’t you? Or do you think it’s better to leave typos in place for posterity’s sake.

  • Andrew R. says:

    I’d really like to see a post on how well the Iraqi Army’s issues with equipment and logistics are being handled (or at least the little bit that you’re seeing through your end of the straw).

    Stay safe.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    “The jundi lieutenant commanded the patrol through the streets of Fallujah (Iraqi Army patrols are led by a lieutenant, while the senior sergeants carry the PKC machine gun and RPG , whereas Marines squads are often led by a corporal.) He and the sergeants decided which houses to search, when to stop and who to search.”
    Using an Officer for a NCO’s job.
    – They are still very short of competant and experienced NCOs.
    Takes a lot of time and experience to build a good strong NCO Corps.
    It has only been 2.5 years since they realy started building the IA.
    And many of the NCOs that are good are probably talked into going Officer for the expansion…
    – Biggest impact of MiTTs will be providing an example of how an NCO should be and act…

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Scrapiron,
    There was absolutely no reason to attack Nicholas for correcting errors. Read the comments policy about personal attacks.
    Andrew R.,
    As I stated in this post, the issues with the IA/Ip will be covered in more depth in future posts on the MTTs/PTTs. Should be early this week.
    DJ,
    I’m not sure this is going to happen. At least based on what I saw. I still have some more checking in to do on this.

  • The Chief says:

    I think Bill’s typos insert passsion…and a plucky spirit. Do you think the Iraqi units are gaining confidence, and does this confidence rub off on the local population? Are locals more likely to stand up, or come forward, if they live in an area where there have been sucessful actions by Iraqi units?

  • TS says:

    I wonder how much the weakness of the NCO cadre is driven by the immaturity of the Iraqi army vs. the single-strongman culture that permeates Arab culture. i.e. The Sr. Officer deferring to a subordinate for advice in front of the men is considered weakness. How much of this ingrained cultural impediment can be overcome by training and U.S. example-setting, really.

  • The Fourth Rail Watch: Iraq Embed – The ROC

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    On patrol with 3 Company, 3-2-1 Iraqi Army in southern Fallujah
    FALLUJAH, IRAQ: The mission of the Police and Military Transition Teams here in Fallujah is to assist with the turnov…

  • Bozoer Rebbe says:

    It might be a cultural thing. In Why Arabs Lose Wars, Norvell B. De Atkine pointed out that in in the US armed forces a master sergeant can initiate action that would require a lt. col. in most Arab countries’ armies.

  • OldSoldier54 says:

    Does Jundi mean soldier?
    Thanks for being there for all of us. I’ll contribute when I can.

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  • Cruiser says:

    Great report Bill. Keep you head down.
    One observation from your pictures of the IA troops: although they may have logistical and pay issues, they appear much more impressive as time goes by. The unit you were with all had quality weapons (they appeared to be well maintained) and other equipment (bullet-resistant vests, more uniform uniforms than I have seen in the past, good boots, kneepads…). More importantly there appears to be a confidence and pride in their unit and their equipment that is evident in the last photo.
    Compared photos of IA troops in articles from prior years, there is a world of improvement (if this unit is representative).
    I’m sure that have a very long way to go. However, it was good to see the progress.
    I look forward to your post on the pay, heavy weapons and supply problems they are facing.

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  • Nicholas says:

    Cruiser I noticed that they looked more professional too. I hope that’s indicative of the Iraqi forces overall. The next problem to solve is political I think; Sadr and other violent factions can’t be left with a free hand or else no amount of military force is going to bring about peace.

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  • S Wise says:

    Bill, thanks for the pictures. I haven’t seen those guys in months, but they look like they’re still doing great.
    Jundi does mean soldier, but it is also a rank in the IA. Bill, just to correct one thing, since jundi is a rank, the proper way to call the lieutenant is molasm, but they recognize our rank. I’m glad you got a chance to patrol with “Capsulay.” They are definitely one of the more motivated groups around.
    The IA does have problems with being top heavy and needing a colonel to make a decision, but they are getting better. While the officers still lead most of the patrols, the sergeants still have a lot of leeway, and I remember several patrols led by sergeants.
    Anyways, the new team looks like they were doing a great job. Tell Maj McCombs congratulations on the promotion for me.

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  • Lcpl Purcell says:

    Hey everyone,
    I’ve been reading Bill’s work since he was out here with us and I think he does an excellent job showing what it’s like here.
    As far as the typos go, just a couple mixs with the names and all. Totally forgiven in advance. I believe Bill told me he was going to write the article that night. So, you can attribute the errors to your writter’s dedication in a late night.
    In reply to DJ Elliot, Our influence is less on the soldiers and more on the staff at the moment. In the future, perhaps after the MiTTs are expanded, I hope to see more influence and training on the individual and squad levels.
    My thoughts on The Cheif’s post: It seems to me the population is neutral overall. While they may not be confident in the Army as a whole they do trust certain people that they see getting the job done. Some Lieutenants will have people walk up and give them info, while others get the cold shoulder. Imagine if it were you. You and your family could be killed tomarrow for telling on your neighboor so you probably would only tell someone you can trust to take him out right now and make sure he doesn’t come back.
    Thank you Bill for letting the people know whats really going on. I’ll be sending this out to all my people to help spread the word.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Lisa: Tell that to congress. Same thing happened to entire US Government when they didn’t do their job one year.
    What they need is a national banking system. Direct deposit and all. This old school counting and signing for paper currency and then having to travel home to deliver it to the family is a mess…

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