26 Mar

Company C Soldiers Seek Out Enemy Forces

TIGRIS, Iraq — Soldiers from Company C, 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 506th Infantry Regiment, conducted a waterborne operation across the Tigris River March 15 to search designated houses for weapons, improvised-explosive devices and bomb-making materials.
While most of the elements are referred to by the cavalry designation of “Troop”, Company C is composed of infantry Soldiers, adding an extra dimension to the battalion’s mixed reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition force.

“We’re basically the brigade Lerps,” explained Sgt. Jason Hughes, team leader for 1st Platoon, referring to the nick-name for Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols that were a legendary force during the Vietnam War.

Hughes and his Soldiers had been living in the field for days preparing for this operation, he said. His unit, a mix of marksmen, mortars and medical elements, had already eliminated terrorists from their side of the river. They also scouted the target houses that were slated to be engaged during the final phase of the operation.

“This was a long operation,” said Hughes, “It started about two weeks ago with counter-fire and mortar operations. “We reconned the area three days ago in preparation for the cordon and knock.”

Three of the houses had been targeted as being possible safe houses for anti-Iraqi forces. During the area reconnaissance, troops observed discarded water bottles, anti-Coalition graffiti and bed rolls inside the gutted buildings. Civilians in the area had expressed concern about “foreigners and outsiders” coming through the area occasionally, believing these strangers to be conducting terrorist operations.
The Soldiers of Company C loaded up in Zodiac boats under the light of the full moon and glided across the ancient river to rendezvous with their objective, the culmination of the work and hardship the team had endured.

“The waterborne training we had back on the lake at Fort Campbell was good,” said Pfc. Harold Turner, a native of Marion, Ind. “We can’t get a lot of training out here. We do rehearsals, make sure everybody knows their position.”

The troops of Company C are adamant in their belief that missions like this are effective in their area of operations.

“We’re definitely making a difference,” said Spc. Charles Butcher, an infantryman with 1st Platoon. “When we first got to Rustamiyah, the forward operating base was getting mortared nightly; it’s not like that now. The number of IEDs has gone down drastically since we got here.”

When the Soldiers moved up to the suspect houses, they received little resistance from the Iraqi citizens in the area.

“They see us from over there, on the other side of the river, but they haven’t really ‘seen’ American forces in about eight or nine months,” said Hughes. “Now they know we can show up at any time, especially with a unit like ours – you never know.”

Company C searched numerous buildings, questioned the locals about possible criminal activity and scoured the area for the enemy. They would leave the area hours later with a few more leads to be followed up on.

“It was a dry hole, but you’re going to get that sometimes,” said Hughes. “Overall, it was a success from an operational standpoint. If nothing else, we made our presence known out there,” Hughes said. “This is what I love. What I love more than anything else is to come out here and come after the bad guys.”