HUSAYBAH, Iraq -- The Marines of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment played a major role in the battles of Operation Steel Curtain, which began Nov. 5 in northwest Al Anbar province.
The battalion, in a joint effort with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and Iraqi Army soldiers under Regimental Combat Team-2, swept the towns of Husaybah, Karabilah and Ubaydi in a historic operation, aimed at digging out insurgent strongholds and setting security for the upcoming Iraqi elections.
After four days of intense fighting in Husaybah, a town of about 30,000, BLT 2/1, the Ground Combat Element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), held a position in west Karabilah while 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines pushed through, and prepared to assault Ubaydi.
“We were sweeping through and clearing every single building,” said Sgt. Anthony Vallarde, a squad leader from 3rd Platoon, Company G. “It was supposed to be ‘attack and clear’, but there have been a lot of civilians here,” said the Baldwin Park, Calif., native.
During the battles of Husaybah, Karabilah and Ubaydi, a heavy barrage from rockets, close air support, tanks and demolitions were heard around the clock. The participation of BLT 2/1 marked the battalion’s latest combat operation since assaulting Fallujah in early 2004.
First Lieutenant Jeff Mast, executive officer, Company G, said he considered the combat stages of the operation a “very high” success and attributed it to the fast, methodical movement of the individual fire teams and squads.
“We’re moving so quickly … the enemy knows we’re too strong of a force and they’re heading east,” he said.
Another attribution of success, said Mast, was the solid integration of the Iraqi Army on the platoon level.
“I think the integration of the Iraqi (Security Forces) was a great idea. I know it’s not the first time, but these troops are much better trained, more mature and willing to fight (alongside) Marines,” said Mast. “It’s their country.”
Though the battalion claimed a high number of insurgents during the fighting, a total of eight Marines from BLT 2/1, including Company F’s commander, Maj. Ray Mendoza, gave their lives in the Global War on Terrorism – a sad reminder that the cost of freedom is great.
When a command turnover with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines was completed in Ubaydi after BLT 2/1 had secured the city, the battalion packed up and moved out to prepare for another mission, another day and perhaps another fight.
To read more about the operations of Battalion Landing Team 2/1, “The Professionals,” and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.