With security from the lake provided by the Haditha Dam Security Unit, Operation Brand Iron consisted of searching for weapons caches and intell along the 100 kilometers of shoreline and remote villages of Lake Qadisiyah.
"We did some area reconnaissance, which is getting a census on the people in the area," said Sgt. Alexander M. Murray, Portland, Ore., VC, 3rd Platoon. with Mobile Assault Company, 3/1. "We were also hoping to find some bad guys in the process."
Metal detector-toting combat engineers helped search areas surrounding the tiny communities of a few tents or buildings spread out over the barren desert landscape.
"The people here live very primitive at best," commented Murray.
As Marines swept through the area, they gathered information about each family and community. Having intell on each area will help other Marines in future keep terrorist influence out of these small, vulnerable communities.
"We might find a cache here and there, but the biggest thing is just being out here," said Lance Cpl. Enrique Mendoza, Chico, Calif., vehicle security member for the company. "It shows them that we are willing to come all the way out here to look for bad guys."
Much like other recent operations for the company, Marines bared the cold winter temperatures for days, getting whatever heat they could inside their vehicles. At night the Marines either slept inside their vehicles or on the desert floor, using their sleeping bags as cocoons.
"Besides getting a vehicle stuck, keeping warm is one of the biggest battles out here," commented the 33-year-old vehicle commander.
In remote areas makes it difficult to receive fuel when traveling more than 500 kilometers during the operation. To make sure the vehicles did not run dry, two helicopters carrying fuel landed in the open desert and topped off vehicle fuel tanks to finish the mission.
"Being refueled by the helos is a very unique experience," said Murray. "Especially when they refueled us at night and we saw them come in through our (night vision goggles)."
Before the end of the operation, the Marines conducted a vehicle checkpoints on the main road. Marines searched vehicles and passengers keeping pressure on insurgents.----Cpl. Adam C. Schnell