QAYYARAH WEST, IRAQ –
The United States Marine Corps and the U.S. Army are partnering to enhance the readiness of Iraqi security forces as they move towards the critical city of Mosul.
The Marines, from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, and Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), are leveraging their previous experiences to aid the ISF as part of the Coalition’s mission to provide advice and assistance.
“These men [the ISF] are going to win,” said Marine Maj. Ryan Hunt, the team’s officer in charge. “They’re a very adaptive organization. They’ve had multiple successes since we’ve arrived that we’re very excited about.”
The MAGTF is the Marine Corps’ principal organization for conducting missions across a variety of contingencies. Special Purpose MAGTFs provide even more focus on dynamic tasks like the advise and assist mission currently being conducted. The SPMAGTF is part of a shore-based MAGTF that is forward deployed and can be called upon at short notice, said Hunt. This mission has them working in concert with the U.S Army.
“We are tactically controlled by the Army while we’re here.” said Hunt. “Up here I work with Lt. Col. Chadwick Shields [the commander of 1-75th CAV.] The team of Marines here with me were specially selected for the skills they bring to the table.”
“Our battalion leadership believes in the mission and we wanted to make sure we got a good team up here since they would be covering down on brigades with Iraqi colonels or brigadier generals.”
The capabilities the Marines have brought with them have been used to fulfill a variety of mission objectives.
“I was picked by my leadership because of my language skills,” said Marine Cpl. Ali Mohammed. Growing up in Iraq before his family moved to the United States due to threats of violence, he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. As a native Arabic speaker he was selected by his battalion commander to join the team.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve served as a translator, helping to ensure both the U.S forces and Iraqis get the right information to each other." said Mohammed. "I feel like we’re helping out a lot and when we go out for a meeting or key leader engagement we try to leave them with something they can apply in the future.”
The team has also helped coalition forces at Qayarrah West Airfield. When the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant set the al-Mishraq sulfur plant on fire blowing clouds of sulfur dioxide towards Coalition forces, the team’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist was among the first to respond.
“Due to the possible CBRN threat in northern Iraq, I was picked by my command to join the team for defensive measures,” said Marine Lance Cpl. D’armarni Parks.
“When the cloud threatened to affect personnel on the base, we responded by running tests and having thousands of filters shipped here.” said Parks. "We also emplaced more detection equipment to try to combat future threats. Working with our Iraqi counterparts was very important because they are the ones who are actually going to extinguish the fire or do the best to contain it so there’s less of an effect. We were able to keep everyone on this base in good health and here to fight another day.”
The Marines are proud of the work their small team is doing. They realize that they are part of a larger effort in the country whose is contributing to the ISF effort.
“We all realize that it’s not just about our individual skills.” said Mohammed. “It’s about our overall contribution.”