Why the 3/2?

Just had a conversation w one of my daughters, and mentioned this project.  First thing she asked was, “why that battalion?” She’s not the only one.  Several of the Marines I’ve been Facebooking with have asked something similar.  And I guess it might seem kind of weird, to have some stranger contact you and start asking questions.  Especially when it becomes clear how long I’ve been studying the unit, and how much I know about their operations and the campaign.  So, here’s the answer…

Clearing Karabilah during Operation Spear. June, 2005. (USMC photo)

In about 2009/2010, I was thinking about writing something (non-fictional historic account? a novel? a series of articles?) about the Iraq War, and specifically the “surge” that seemed to turn things around so dramatically. My own deployment in the spring & summer of 2007 had ingrained in me how historic the tribal “awakening” movement was, and I started digging into the whole story.

The standard history of the Sunni awakening focuses on Ramadi in 2006, and the actions of young Sheikh Sattar, Capt. Travis Patriquin and a surrounding cast of characters. It’s commonly accepted that Ramadi is where the big turn-around came, where the Sunni tribes turned against the jihadists of AQI, and joined forces with the Coalition.  BTW, the 3/2 had a role to play there being deployed in 2006/2007 and seeing lots of combat in and around Ramadi.

But there was a first awakening in 2005, in the Al-Qaim district by the Syrian border, out in the “wild west”.  It was in Al-Qaim where Sunni tribesmen first fought back against the foreign-led extremist group al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  In March of 2005, when the “Betio Bastards” took over at Al-Qaim, the Area of Operations (AOR) was in crisis.  Within weeks, they suffered their first KIA, were hit by a major attack against a key base, and started seeing bitter “red-on-red” clashes as local tribal gangs fought against AQI terrorists.

Right from the start, the Marines of 3/2 were immersed in a dangerous, highly complex environment. The battalion commander, LtCol Tim Mundy, knew he wasn’t resourced to run a classic counter-insurgency campaign, which requires more troops to secure the population. So 3/2 had to work with what they had, cover a large AO, figure out who was good & who was bad, and keep AQI at bay..

At the same time, the grunts of the battalion’s two infantry companies, India and Kilo, and the weapons company, Warpig, had to go full-on kinetic against hard-core, jihadist warriors determined to fight to the death while taking as many Americans with them as possible.  At that time in the war, Al-Qaim was one of the most violent, challenging operational environments in the country.  Officially, the Marines of 3/2 experienced 279 firefights over their 7-month deployment of (roughly 210 days).

So, that’s why…


Update (23feb17): Just posted an email exchange w Chris Ieva, Commander of Kilo Co, that gives great context, and addresses this question.

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