HUSAYBAH, IRAQ: The evening kicked off with a ride in the darkness from Camp Qaim, which is situated at the railroad station South of Al Qaim, to Camp Gannon, the outpost that sits directly between the city of Husaybah and the Syrian border. The ride was uneventful, and the convoy of up-armored Hummers passed through the desert and into Karabilah, then Husaybah. It was difficult to see in the dark, making the most notable feature the alternating pockets of light and darkness along the road.
Upon arrival at Camp Gannon, I met with Captain Richard Pitchford, the commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. Capt Pitchford detailed Lima Company’s role in Operation Steel Curtain, and explained the company’s disposition in the city of Husaybah. Along with Camp Gannon, there are two Battle Positions within the city; Beirut, which sits in the South at the train station, and Hue City, which is in a community center in the East.
After battling the insurgency in Operation Steel Curtain, Lima Company’s current mission is to maintain a presence in the city, restore order and facilitate reconstruction and local governance. Lima Company, in conjunction with Iraqi Army units stationed at Camp Gannon, Beirut and Hue City, actively patrol the city at all hours.
I joined up with the 4th Mobile Assault Platoon, call sign Jackal 4, for a zero-dark-thirty patrol. The platoon is led by 1st Lieutenant Carey. Staff Sergeant Strong commanded the vehicle I rode in; Corporal Witzell was the driver; “Doc” Pruett the convoy medic; and Lance Corporal Ramage manned the gun in the cold night’s air. Capt Pitchford loaned me a pair of night vision goggles and we were on our way.
The patrol sped off in full blackout, piloted by drivers with night vision goggles. The Jackals escorted a Civil Affairs Group (CAG) to and from Hue City. The “440 District” , named after the number of buildings in the neighborhood, was paid a visit, as were neighborhoods in the north and south of the city, and a remote desert region with buildings and walls scattered about.
At night the streets of Husaybah often appear as series of mazes quite mean by American standards. The houses are surrounded by ramshackle walls; rubble, trash, abandoned cars and fifty gallon drums are strewn along the roadways. All are potential hiding places for IEDs. Since Steel Curtain, four IEDs have been uncovered, but its unknown if these are bombs missed in previous sweeps, or ones newly deployed. Staff Sergeant Strong believes insurgents are attempting to reenter the city and resume attacks on the Coalition.
No IEDs or insurgents were encountered during the early morning’s patrol. The only takers were the myriad of Husaybah’s dogs, who howl loudly and seem ever present. The jihadis ceded the night to the hounds of Husaybah and the Jackals of 4th Platoon.
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