By Robert Bruce
In keeping with their traditional role, the US Marines were prominent among combat forces spearheading the initial assault into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Marine Air Ground Task Force LAVs, AAVPs, tanks and trucks rolled across the border and into a running gun battle over hundreds of miles to Baghdad. Overhead flew nimble Cobra gunships with rockets and machine cannon and formidable Sea Knight twin rotors for emergency delivery of marines, ammo, or artillery. Dismounted Marine infantrymen pressed forward against pockets of resisters in vast wastelands and innumerable towns and cities.
Offshore, an awesome array of US Navy vessels were on station including aircraft carriers, assault landing ships, ammunition and supply transports, and a variety of special operations boats. Carrier-based jets rocketed in to pour the fires of hell onto the enemy. Navy corpsmen treated wounded American and allied troops and the worst cases were helicoptered back to a hospital ship.
Minesweepers quickly moved to clear sea lanes into the important port of Um Qsar. UDT and EOD teams worked feverishly to locate and neutralize all manner of munitions and unexploded ordnance in the port area and waterways leading inland.
The urgent necessity of searching hundreds of foreign vessels from giant tankers to fishing boats was met by the combined efforts of the Navy and Coast Guard in Maritime Interception Operations. This was typically done by VBSS (Visit Board Search Seizure) teams climbing aboard from machinegun armed Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats. VBSS teams are credited with stopping a significant number of potential terrorists, along with weapons and munitions, from slipping into Iraq.
Way out front and deep in enemy territory, Navy SEALs worked with their allied counterparts to disrupt enemy operations, command and control. Real-time reports from numerous carefully chosen locations allowed precision engagement of high value targets such as SCUD missile launchers and fighter aircraft.
As primary combat operations have given way to stabilization efforts - now called Operation Iraqi Freedom II - the direct commitment of all these assets has been scaled back only moderately. Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups rotate in and out on a regular schedule, providing fresh forces to demonstrate America’s commitment to self determination for the Iraqi people.
USMC Headquarters announced in early March that approximately 25,000 Marines and Sailors would deploy to Iraq with the latest Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF), relieving the Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 82nd Airborne Division.
This MAGTF has been intensively trained in Security and Stability Operations with a heavy emphasis on lessons learned in recent months. A key component is counter-insurgency in an urban environment, something that has been prominent in news from Iraq.
More information on the USMC in Operation Iraqi Freedom can be found on the Internet at www.usmc.mil. Navy efforts can be found at www.navy.mil and the Coast Guard at www.uscg.mil.
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