11th MEU Marines remember first dismounted attack

17 Aug 2004 | Cpl. Annette M. Kyriakides 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

The silence of the night was shattered as gunfire rang throughout the Old City district of Najaf.

"Move! Hurry up!" called a silhouette in a hushed voice, as one by one, dark figures merged into the shadows and began dispersing down the street, starting their 600-meter patrol. Their mission once they reached the objective was to find, kill or capture as many enemy insurgents as possible, in an effort to help Iraqi security forces restore law and order to the holy city.

The Raiders of Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), were ready to answer recent attacks on local police and MEU forces by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia that began Aug. 5.

"Every unit in Najaf has been engaged at one point or another by a (Muqtada Militia) ambush or sniper fire," recounts 1st Lt. Christopher Smith, platoon commander, 1st Platoon, Co. A, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC). "We are helping to stabilize Najaf."

During the company's first dismounted offensive in the old city in mid-August, the Raiders gathered intelligence and took control of key buildings that were being occupied by al-Sadr's forces as strongholds to mount attacks. Continuous small arms, rocket propelled grenades and mortar fire sounded throughout the day as the Marines held their newly acquired ground and pushed back the militia.

Snipers from both sides exchanged fire from windows high above the city's streets.
"This was the first time here that I've known of snipers hunting snipers," said Captain Robert B. Sotire, company commander, Co. A, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC). "Our counter-snipers did an excellent job. We took out their snipers with precision fire and fire support."

Morale remained high throughout the 18-hour operation.

"I was here during the war, and I am proud to come back for follow up operations to keep Iraq stable," said Cpl. Nathaniel Kulokowski, squad leader, 2nd Squad, 1st platoon, Co. A, BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC). "My Marines are a special group. They are highly motivated. Everyone is excited to be here."

By 6 p.m. that evening, the Raiders of Alpha Company had successfully completed their mission and a battalion from the Army's 1st Cavalry Division arrived to replace them with their armored vehicles.

"It was nice to be able to give the Army the dismounted support they needed," said Sotire.

When asked what kind of message the raid sent to the insurgents, there was no hesitation. 

"We're coming for them," warned Sotire.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarr enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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