1ST RECON BATTILION 

                                                                                 Box 555584

                                              CAMP PENDLETON, CA. 92055-5584

                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             IN REPLY REFER TO:

                                                      1000

                                                      S-3

                                                      12 Jun 03

 

From:  Operations Officer

To:    Commanding Officer

 

Subj:  FIRST RECONNAISSANCE BATTALION NARRATIVE SUMMARY, RE:

       OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM FROM 1 FEB TO 24 MAY

 

In January of 2003, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion deployed to Kuwait in preparation for combat operations in Iraq. Companies B and C deployed via air transport to Kuwait and trained there for six weeks prior to crossing the line of departure. A and H&S Companies deployed to Kuwait on the USS Anchorage, setting sail on January 17, 2003. After arriving in Kuwait the two companies trained for three weeks before combat operations commenced. Company D, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Forces Reserve, was mobilized and activated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 03 February 2003. The company departed to the designated Staging and Integration Area (SIA) at Camp Pendleton, California, for joining to the Gaining Force Command (GFC), 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, on 07 February 2003. The company stayed at Camp Margarita briefly before being forward deployed to the country of Kuwait on 14 February 2003. Upon linking up with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion on 16 February 2003, the company began preparations and workups in earnest, eventually crossing the line of departure (LD) into Iraq and subsequently conducted combat operations while attached to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion/Tactical Movement Control-South for priority convoy security and escort duties. The company was detached and re-attached to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion on 04 April 2003, and engaged in all subsequent combat operations with the battalion until retrograde. 

 

The battalion initially was in general support of the division, but was detached to RCT-1 for the majority of the war. Through a process of trial and error the companies learned to plan and execute fragmentary orders on short timelines. Missions assigned to the battalion included screens, convoy security, a battalion level deliberate attack, strongpoint operations, CASEVAC recovery, team through battalion sized reconnaissance, combat and security patrols, defensive operations, blocking positions, personnel and vehicle searches, establishing traffic control points, reconnaissance in force, humanitarian operations, and raids.

 

On 21 March 2003 1st Recon Battalion crossed the LD through Breach Lane Red 1 and screened the western flank of RCT-5 between the LD and the Mother of All Battles (MOAB) Canal.  During the first day in Iraq 3 EPWs were captured and processed.  The battalion also observed and reported 2 enemy minefields.   The next day the battalion continued its screen mission between MSR Tampa and the MOAB Canal, taking 60 EPWs as they fled the fighting in the Rumalyah Oil Fields towards An Nasiriyah.  In response to reports of enemy armor operating north of the Sadaam River, the battalion received a Fragmentary Order to screen MSR Tampa between the MOAB Canal and the Sadaam River IOT protect the divisionís flank as it moved up MSR Tampa.  The battalion screen line was established by 2300 local but yielded no contact with the enemy over the next 8 hours.  During this phase the battalion seized and destroyed approximately 10 small arms and several thousand rounds of ammunition. 

 

     On 23 March the battalion conducted a tactical road march up MSR Tampa towards An Nasiriyah. On 24 March the battalion experienced its first direct combat against hostile forces, establishing a Support By Fire (SBF) position on the south side of the Euphrates River near the An Nasiriyah bridge in support of a planned 1st Marines attack into An Nasiriyah.  Companies A and C engaged enemy forces with sniper, small arms, and heavy machine gun fire accounting for 12 suspected enemy kills. Approximately two hours after establishing the SBF position, RCT 1ís attack was delayed and the battalion was pulled back. 

 

Following 3/1ís successful attack into An Nasiriyah, the battalion crossed the Euphrates River into An Nasiriyah on the morning of 25 March 2003.  Despite 3/1ís strongpoint defense of the MSR through An Nasiriyah, the battalion received moderate small arms and RPG fire as it transited through the city.  During this movement, Company C successfully recovered an injured 3/1 Marine and evacuated him to 3/1ís aid station.  The battalion continued its movement north and established a screen line east of Route 7 in order to protect RCT-1ís flank as it moved north on the MSR.  During its movement north, Company B identified several BM-21 MRLs which battalion reported to RCT 1. Additionally, The battalion found and destroyed a truck loaded with 12,000 lbs of explosives and a truck loaded with 200 mortar rounds.

 

     As the battalion approached Al Gharraf, the lead company, Company A, began receiving fire from a platoon sized Fedayeen element in the city.  Company A suppressed the enemy element with its organic weapons and called in artillery, achieving good effects and silencing the enemy element.  The battalion immediately continued its movement through Al Gharraf in order to link up with RCT 1 on Route 7 on the other side of the city.  The battalion was the first friendly unit into Al Gharraf.  During the movement through the city, the entire battalion was engaged with small arms, RPG and machine gun fire.  The battalion accounted for 1 confirmed enemy killed (dressed in civilian clothes) as well as a platoon sized element silenced with indirect fire.  The battalion suffered its first casualty during this battle - a corporal from Company B received a gunshot wound to his forearm. 

 

On 26 March, the battalion moved to Al Rifa and established a strongpoint defense along Route 7 IOT facilitate RCT 1ís movement north on Route 7.  Enemy forces were spotted on rooftops in town.  The battalion called a fire for effect on an enemy OP on a rooftop accounting for 6 suspected enemy killed.  Friendly heavy weapons fire was received while the battalion strongpointed Al Rifa. No friendly forces were injured.  Company C was detached and attached to RCT-1ís Headquarters Company IOT protect the RCTís log trains as they transited north on Route 7.  The Company destroyed one Fedayeen technical vehicle as it approached the rear of the RCTís trains, killing five Fedayeen personnel.

 

On the night of 26 March, the battalion received a short fuse tasker to conduct reconnaissance of Qalat Sikar airfield in order to support a planned seizure of the airfield by UK forces.  As the battalion approached the airfield word came down that the UK operation was cancelled and the battalion was subsequently tasked to seize the airfield itself.  Despite the short notice the battalion successfully seized the airfield in the early morning hours of 27 March 2003.  Company C rejoined the battalion at the airfield on 27 March where and the battalion remained until 30 March when a RIP was conducted with 1/4.   

 

     On 31 March 1st Recon Battalion conducted a reconnaissance in force along Route 7a (an unimproved road that paralleled the western bank of the Al Gharraf River).   During this reconnaissance, the battalion was tasked with establishing a blocking position on Route 7 north of Al Hayy.  During the reconnaissance the battalion tripped an ambush approximately 15 kilometers south of Al Hayy.  The ambush was quickly defeated with organic weapons and rotary wing CAS.  As the battalion moved over the Al Gharraf River north of Al Hayy it tripped another ambush, receiving RPG, machine gun and mortar fire.  The battalion quickly suppressed this ambush with its organic heavy weapons and pushed through to Route 7.  Upon consolidation on Route 7, the battalion occupied a BP where it subsequently received BM-21 impacts 500 meters from its location.  Artillery was called, destroying 1 enemy artillery piece, 5 trucks, and 4 personnel. 

 

On 1 April the battalion continued its reconnaissance north on Route 7a IOT protect the western flank of RCT 1.  Upon receiving enemy mortar fire and locating their firing position, the battalion employed fixed wing CAS destroying the mortar position.   As it continued its movement north, the battalion again came into contact with Fedayeen forces in vicinity of Al Muwaffaqiyah (Al Muf).  A division of AH-1Wís was employed as well as 3 fire for effect artillery missions against enemy positions in surrounding buildings.  An enemy platoon sized element was suspected to be destroyed.

 

     On 2 April the battalion was tasked to screen north along Route 7a to the 86 northing IOT protect RCT 1ís flank.   As the battalion attempted to cross the bridge over the Gharraf River at Al Muf, it began receiving effective machine gun fire and ineffective RPG fire from entrenched enemy positions on the near and far side of the bridge.  Due to a large obstacle placed on the bridge the battalion was unable to cross the bridge.  LAR and armor attachments pushed ahead of the battalion to suppress the enemy positions and attempt to reduce the obstacle.  As the battalion pushed through, an enemy squad was uncovered and destroyed with heavy machine gun fire from 50 meters away.  A fire for effect artillery and rotary wing CAS mission was called to engage enemy units on the battalionís flanks.  The battalion suffered 2 casualties when a team leader received a gunshot wound to the foot and a Corporal received a shrapnel wound to the leg.  During the dayís fighting the battalion accounted for 6 enemy confirmed kills as well as a squad on the far side of the bridge suspected killed.  One wounded enemy was treated and transported to STP.  The enemies killed were all dressed in civilian clothes and most had paperwork indicating they had entered Iraq through Syria.  They are suspected to have been Muslim extremists.  As a result of the fires landing on and around the bridge, the bridge was severely damaged, ultimately preventing the battalion from crossing the River at Al Muf.  The battalion improvised and crossed the river approximately 15 kilometers south of Al Muf and proceeded on its screening mission north on Route 7a.  As it moved through Al Muf, Company C established a blocking position in the city and destroyed a large cache consisting of 500-600 60 & 82 mm mortars, 10,000 7.62mm rounds, 1 60mm mortar, 2 RPK machine guns and 30 bayonets.

 

     On 3 April the battalion established a BP at the 70 northing along Route 7 where it remained in place through 4 April.  The battalion processed in excess of 300 displaced persons (DPs) as they fled Al Kut and Baghdad.  A cache of 20 RPGs was destroyed and 4 EPWs were processed.  Upon conclusion of RCT 1ís successful feint towards Al Kut, the RCT began its movement to the west towards Baghdad.  First Reconnaissance Battalion established the RCTs rear guard and moved along Route 7 to Route 17 to Route 1 to Route 27 to vic of An Numinayah airfield.

 

On 5 April the battalion relieved 2/23 on itís blocking position vic of the intersection of Routes 27 and 6 north of An Numinayah.  The battalion commander decided to conduct split operations leaving Companies A and D at the BP while the rest of the battalion pushed forward to the Division Main CP located on the outskirts of Baghdad.  During 5-6 April, Companies C and D stopped and searched over 50 vehicles and 250 DPs moving along Route 6.

 

     On 6 April the battalion rear element conducted a relief in place with 2nd LAR and rejoined the battalion forward at the Division Main CP. For the following day the battalion conducted rest, refitting, and mission planning for an attack north to Ba Qubah.

 

On 8 April the battalion, reinforced with a LAR company, conducted a reconnaissance in force to Ba Qubah.  Approximately 30 miles north of Baghdad the lead LAR company began receiving effective small arms and mortar fire in the vicinity of the 02 Northing.  Due to the restrictive terrain, pre-registered enemy mortar fire and limited visibility due to fog and low illumination preventing effective location of targets, the battalion pulled back and dispatched dismounted patrols to develop the situation.

 

     The battalion continued its reconnaissance in force at dawn on 9 April.  The battalion employed a two-axis attack with Company A and C on an eastern axis and the LAR company and Company B on the western axis with Company D maintaining rear security.  Multiple firefights occurred as the battalion attacked north.  These tactics produced excellent results and defeated a well-entrenched enemy on the approaches to Ba Qubah.  Four fixed wing sections, three rotary wing divisions, and eight mortar fire missions were called on enemy forces.  Enemy forces suffered 6 confirmed KIA as well as a platoon plus suspected KIA.  The battalion destroyed three BMPs, two T-72 MBTs, and six enemy mortars with weapons ranging from JDAMs to TOWs to AT-4s.  Ammunition located and destroyed included 450 82mm mortar rounds, 6 mortar tubes and 10,000 7.62 rounds.  When the battalion reached the outskirts of Ba Qubah, Companies A, B and D as well as the LAR Company established blocking positions along the approaches to the city while Company C conducted a reconnaissance of the Iraqi 41st Armored Brigade and Al Nida Republican Guard Headquarters Garrisons.  Company C found both garrisons abandoned and captured battle colors of the 41st Brigade.  Upon conclusion of this reconnaissance, the battalion withdrew to the Division Main CP without incident.

 

     On 10 April the battalion occupied a regime complex near the Baghdad suburb of Sadaam City.   Over the next two days Companies A, B and C conducted zone recon of the battalionís AOR in and around Baghdad. The battalion destroyed multiple enemy caches and abandoned weapons including 100 RPGs, 55 mortars, 8 cases of 12.7mm, 1 25mm AAA gun and 10 cases of 122mm mortar rounds. On 12 April the battalion conducted a zone reconnaissance and moved to another abandoned complex north of Baghdad.  From this location the battalion conducted security operations, rested and refitted.

 

     On 13 April the battalion moved to a power plant vicinity of MC405057 in order to conduct security operations and defend the power plant against looters.  From this location the battalion conducted 17 platoon sized patrols over the next 4 days.  These patrols performed multiple missions such as locating UXO, locating abandoned military equipment, projecting a presence in the area, halting looting and lawlessness and providing water and medical aid to residents of the local community.  During this time period the following weapons were located and reported for future destruction by EOD:  1 SA-6 missile and launcher, 4 HIP helos, 1 AAA gun,  3 S-60s, 4 T-72s, 5 BMPs, 5 BRDMs, 2  14.5mm AA guns, 6  120mm mortars, 300 SA-16s, 6 SA-14s, 1 ZPU, and 6 SA-7s.  In addition to these weapons, the following ammunition was found: Approximately 100 rockets for helos, 5 cases of AAA gun ammo, 6000  14.5mm AA rounds, and an ammo dump 100m long X  20m wide and 2m deep.  This ammo dump contained an estimated 20,000 lbs of ordnance to include: mortars, missiles, RPGs, MG ammo, and over 500 land mines.  The battalion remained at the power station and provided security on the adjacent petrol facility until 18 April when it staged at Baghdad sports stadium in preparation for movement south.  

 

On 19 April battalion conducted a route reconnaissance along

Routes 5, 8 and 1 to vicinity of Al Hillah and established and organized a TAA in support of RCT 1ís retrograde south.  On 20 April the battalion conducted movement control for RCT 1 and loaded the TAA with RCT 1 units as they moved south.  On 20 April Company C conducted a route reconnaissance from the TAA to the Babylon Ruins vicinity of Al Hillah IOT confirm their location and routes to the ruins.  During its return to the TAA, CEB Marines attached to Company C identified an unmarked minefield along Route 1 approximately 10 kilometers north of the TAA

 

In the early morning hours of 21 April RCT 1 tasked the battalion to mark the minefield identified the day before.  Two CEB Marines attached to the battalion were injured when an anti-personnel mine exploded while they were marking the minefield. Both Marines were severely injured and were evacuated via air. An additional Recon Marine received minor injuries and was treated on location. 

 

The battalion remained in the TAA vicinity of Al Hillah until 22 April when it moved to the division AA in Ad Diwaniyah.  At Ad Diwaniyah the battalion established its CP next to division main. Over the next month the battalion conducted live fire training and prepared for return to CONUS.  During this time the battalion provided 2 platoon-size reaction force units to aerial patrols over the Saudi-Iraqi border in order to curb suspected smuggling and lawlessness along the border.  On 24 May the battalion departed for LSA 5 in Kuwait where it made final preparation for the return to CONUS. The battalionís main body redeployed from Kuwait to March Air Force Base, Riverside, California on 3 June 2003. 

      

 

             

                               B.L. Gilman