Friday, November 30, 2007

RCT-2 takes to the skies to cover AO

11 November 2007
By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser
2nd Marine Division

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- In a 30,000 square mile patch of desert, roughly the size of South Carolina, it isn’t easy to have eyes and ears everywhere. Regimental Combat Team 2, the unit in control of the northwestern piece of Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, has taken an elevated approach to the problem, and regularly fields an Aero Scout group to the far corners, cliffs and caves of the western Euphrates River valley.

Aero Scout is made up of Marines from different military occupational specialties ranging from infantry to administration. The team uses helicopters to quickly search areas of interest and scout out possible targets. “We fly around to areas that may be difficult for ground units to get to, and scout out any nefarious activity,” explained Cpl. Kyle D. Christian, the team’s radio operator. “We make the enemy feel like there is nowhere to hide, and we play a large role in reconnaissance also.” The group flies to large areas of open desert where they suspect illegal activity may be taking place, and take a closer look.

“We are a reconnaissance asset,” said Maj. Robert B. Brodie, the Aero Scout mission commander. “Recon slash interdiction and disruption, that’s what we do. It comes down to economy of force. We enable the regimental commander to have a force that can do recon and show a presence across his entire area of operation.”

According to the aeroscouts, in addition to their scouting mission, they also help out nomadic civilians on their frequent aerial exploits. “We do cache searches, vehicle searches and sweeps, but we also provide a humanitarian aspect to our mission,” said Sgt. Jason R. Carmody, the team’s platoon sergeant. “We hand out speedballs, backpacks filled with water, chow, toothpaste and other hygiene gear, and handbills with phone numbers they can call and photos of the most dangerous insurgents in their area.”

Brodie, a Beaufort, S.C., native, explained the nomadic Bedouins the aeroscouts frequently come into contact with do not have the luxuries or communication assets local villagers may have access to. “They don’t get television or radio, so we help them out by providing them with information about what is going on in their country and who the bad guys are. We better enable the overall mission by opening more lines of communication and information sharing,” Brodie said.

The Marines on the Aero Scout team said they enjoy what they do, and love the chance to get out and make a difference. “I get to go out and at the end of the day feel like I did something that mattered. It doesn’t make a difference if we rolled up a bad guy, found any weapons, or just collected some good intel, in the end it all fits together to help eliminate the threat to the Iraqi people,” said Christian, a Hallettsville, Texas, native. “There are no more stupid insurgents, they died a long time ago, so we are trying to fight very smart individuals who know what they are doing, and every piece helps fit the puzzle together so we can catch him.”

The group usually takes a fire team of Iraqi soldiers with them on the helicopters to not only help with communication, but also show the civilians how far the Iraqi Security Forces have come in their training and dedication. “This lets the civilians know we are working together to take the weight of safety and security off their shoulders, so they don’t have to worry about getting attacked, the good guys are watching,” Christian said.

"Simply put,” explained Brodie, “We are positively affecting the people of our AO by providing a secure environment in which we can cultivate nationalism.”

The Aero Scout team has been working together for about four months, and has completed nearly 20 successful missions in support of RCT-2. “This is a regular group of guys, not specially trained, but because of their eagerness and will to make a difference, they were able to come together and make a successful unit and successful missions,” Brodie said.

Photo - Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason S. Gamble, a corpsman with Regimental Combat Team 2’s Aero Scout team, provides security while the rest of the team searches a group of Bedouin tents. Aero Scout, technically a large squad of the provisional rifle platoon, is a mix of military occupational specialties ranging from infantry to administration. The team uses helicopters to quickly search areas of interest, and scout out possible targets. Photo by Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser. Digg! Digg!

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