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Marines Report From The Field

‘Tracks’ backbone for summer ops

Story by Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre

Submitted by: II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

Al AMARIYAH, Iraq (Oct. 22, 2005) -- Marines and Iraqi soldiers moved through the town of Al Amariyah and the settlement known as Ferris Town during the early morning hours of Aug. 25 and 26. They conducted house-to-house searches throughout both communities uncovering illegal weapons and confiscating insurgent propaganda documents and videos in some of the dwellings they searched.

The military action was part of Operation Southern Fire, a mission kicked off last summer by coalition forces with the intent of establishing a permanent presence and laying the foundations for Iraqi police and army units to operate in an area more than 12 miles south of the city of Fallujah. The troops, conducting operations in an urban environment consisting of flats, store fronts and multi-storied apartment buildings, faced the challenges of operating in a treacherous urban terrain.

Supporting these infantrymen, were the Marines of 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. Using their ‘tracks,’ a nickname given to their assault amphibian vehicles, their operators blocked off intersections, roadways and entrances into the communities where service members on the ground conducted their searches.

“We’re ensuring that no vehicles and personnel come in or out of the cordon block,” said Cpl. Stephen G. Patton, of Jamestown, Tenn., and an AAV crewman with 2nd AA Bn., as he finished his watch behind a heavy machine gun and grenade launcher inside his AAV. “If they come towards the town, we send them away.”

The challenges poised in this operation and in other missions to the track battalion are not new to the unit. Amphibious assault crewmen and their vehicles have been used to patrol roadways, provide security at check points and in search of weapon caches.

With its assets, the battalion was able to provide increased security, greater mobility and more firepower to coalition forces conducting combat missions.

“We have participated in dismounted roles; conducting cordon and knocks, entry control points and [main supply route] security,” said 1st Lt. Kyle J. Andrews, of Lexington, Ohio, and platoon commander with the battalion. “Pretty much any mission that comes down from higher we can accomplish.”

The trackers used their vehicles to carry water and military rations during the operation adding relief to patrolling Marines by carrying additional gear for them.

The level of security provided by the trackers stands out through increased area coverage and firepower. This was seen as a reassuring comfort for troops on house-to-house searches.

“The AAVs out there are greatly appreciated,” said Gunnery Sgt. Oscar Gutierrez, of San Antonio, and training chief whose unit, Echo Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, participated in the cordon and knock sweeps. “Seeing them out there providing security, all the hard work, [intelligence information] they have been giving us will make us more successful.”