The isolated Marine artillery company that took on ISIS in Iraq

Task and Purpose:
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The Marines of Echo Company were the first conventional U.S. ground troops to set up a semi-permanent artillery position when they dug themselves into the small outpost on March 12, 2016 — a watershed moment in a conflict that had been fought mainly from the skies, after American forces had withdrawn from Iraq in 2014. Their mission was to provide fire support to Kurdish and Iraqi security forces in the fight against Islamic State militants, Szoldra writes:

“The base was small and had no creature comforts, and troops dug holes where they would man their guns, fight, and sleep.

‘It was austere. There was the constant threat 24/7,’ Palka said. ‘My other deployments, you’d come back to a [forward operating base]. Or we’d remain on a FOB and shoot fire support in support of maneuver. We didn’t have an adjacent unit to our left and our right. We were the only general-purpose ground force forward. There was no wire.’

The Pentagon tried to keep the presence of Marines in Iraq quiet, but those efforts were thwarted one week after Palka arrived.”
On March 19, the fire base was hit by rocket fire from roughly 15 miles away, according to Business Insider. The attack killed Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin and injured eight others. During the attack, an Army counter-battery radar site homed in on the enemy position, and from there Palka calmly directed the artillery fire, while assessing casualties and calling for medical evacuations.

The field artillery Marines had four M777A2 Howitzers at the base, which they used to zero in on enemy ISIS positions and decimate them, firing more than 2,000 rounds during 476 missions between mid-March and late May 2016, according to a Department of Defense news release.

On two other occasions, the base was subjected to coordinated attacks by ISIS fighters:

“I’d say that ISIS and the enemy that we encountered in Iraq this past time … they were more bold — the fact that they would infiltrate the forward line of troops and attempt to engage a Marine element with foreign fighters,” Palka said. “Their weaponry and their tactics were more advanced. They were more well-trained than any other force that my Marines had directly engaged on previous deployments.”
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These few Marines made a big difference in helping the Iraqis defeat ISIS.  They demonstrated how potent a company of well equipped Marines can be in dealing with a brutal enemy in an isolated position.  It is the kind of action we have come to expect from Marines.

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