HAQLANIYAH, IRAQ: The drive from Haditha Dam to Haglaniyah was fast and furious. The night starts with a ride in the back of an open 7 ton transport with a crew from Sky News and a team of Marines. The convoy roared down the roads at high speed during the night in blackout conditions, making turns a truck that large had no right making. The trip from the dam to Raider Nation, the foward position of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion,1st Marines, was low key save some interesting driving.
Raider Nation is one of four outposts in Haqlaniyah. The bulk of the company is stationed at Raider Nation, along with a platoon of Iraq soldiers. The other three outposts are Black Hole to the north of Haqlaniyah, TCP to the west, and K3 to the south. Lima Company sits to the east of the river in Barwana. Kilo Company’s three outposts contain a platoon of Iraqi infantry and one squad of Marines who acts as advisors in addition to their duties.
Checkpoints have been established into and out of the city, which allows Kilo to monitor traffic. The Raiders have cleared each house in the city since Operation Rivergate, and over 35 significant weapons caches have been discovered in the process. One find contained over 100 large caliber artillery shells. The Raiders also agressively patrol the desert regions to the west and south of the city to interdict insurgent mortar teams.
Haqlaniyah is a markedly different town than Husaybah. The residents are more educated, and there are many professionals who work at the dam or in other industry in the area. The streets are cleaner, the people’s dress is more western and there are more expensive cars on the road.
Residents of Haqlaniyah Speaking with Interpreter.
The Marines based out of Raider Nation aggressively patrol the city jointly with Iraqi Army troops. Today I walked the city with 1st Squad from the Raider’s 2nd Platoon. The squad is led by Corporal Joe Sanchez, a tough Marine who is on his third tour of duty in Iraq.
Today’s mission was to escort a psychological operations team from Detatchment 930, Company A, 9th POV out of Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Contrary to the common negative perceptions about their mission; psyops responsibility is to provide information on local elections and information on the Coalition’s reconstruction efforts. A campaign of deliberate misinformation would render the unit inneffective.
The the psyops team is lead by Sergeant Rivers, and today’s assignment was to distribute leaflets and place posters on the walls with information on the election to the residents of Haqlaniya. Sgt.Rivers was adament that this was a job for the accompanying Iraqi troops; “This is their election, and they need to do the work.”
The Iraqi units based out of Haqlaniyah are raw troops, fresh out of training. The Marines here do not speak as highly of them as the tough Iraqis of the 1st Divison they fought with in Fallujah. But there is an understanding that the Iraqi troops they work with are in their infancy, and there is much room for improvement.
Iraqi Troops Hanging Election Posters in Haqlaniyah.
On today’s patrol, the Iraqi troops were not quite as disciplined as those I walked with in Husaybah, but they were capable. They enthusiastically hung the posters and handed out the election flyers to the numerous residents they encountered. Afterwards at the squad’s debrief, Cpl. Sanchez stated “the Iraqi troops performed their mission out there today.”
The walk was relatively uneventful. Two shots from what is belived to be an AK-47 were heard, but their origin was not determined. A car that was on a watchlist for acting as a getaway vehicle in a past shooting was identified, and weaved out of the traffic to elude the patrol. Lance Corporal Randy Lake gave chase on foot, and the psyops Humvee attempted to pursue, but the car escaped.
Just a week ago mortar and small arms fire was common at Raider Nation. The past few days have been quiet in Haqlaniyah and the surrounding areas.
1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.