October 12th 2004.
3rd Battalion 5th Marine HQ
“Heads Up Ladies!” Said Sergeant Catanagus in a loud clear voice that caught everyones attention as he strode into the meeting room where 2nd Platoon of Alpha Company ,1/3/5 were gathered. “We are headed to Fallujah” Groans bellowed from throats, eyes rolled on meaty shaved heads.
“Why do we always have to clean up after the Princesses @ 81st (Airborne)?” Someone says.
“Oh shut up, and stop your whining it’s those Freaking Fallujah Brigade asseholes I bet, not 81st’s problem.
Catanagus says “ Well Marines, now its our problem.” “You heard that right growled Sgt Edison Catanagus’s counter part in the Platoon.
The room settled down. “The XO will be here in 5 minutes before we get started let me say this.” He paused for effect. “This is going to be an extreme MOUT . The key to you living or dying, or to your squaddies living or dying is patience. When my squads and elements break outta here, there will be a full review of procedures and process for MOUT.”
LOD (Line Of Departure).
The troops had their assignments. This would not be easy, but it never was. Grey sky’s cast a drab pall over the city. The weather was dry, cold and winter was setting in. Stepping off the line was always the part that made Sarge most nervous. The time for preparation was done. Now it was time to fight or die. Catanagus led like any other NCO, from the front, but with patient diligence and determined fast paced controlled violence.
Situated in the dense Jolan Heights sector of Fallujah, Catanagus and his section leaders, reviewed the situation once more. The terrain is dense, random, and the enemy was expecting them. The buildings were haphazardly arranged, heights varied, and more importantly the buildings were all different. Industrial types, residential, commercial of all shapes and sizes jammed together added to uncertainty, complicated attack plans, enhanced exit routes for the enemy and general made everyone tense.
Worse still the streets were very narrow, the walls channel the squad and don’t allow for standard immediate reaction drills upon contact. But this was not to be a outdoor conflict, rather indoor and house to house.
Walls were thick, and each house had a similar layout. Typically an enclosed courtyard with a strong wooden doors reinforced often as not by steel. Many had several locks. A first story window overlooking it, and the roof top typically flat. Windows are barred on the ground floor, with blinds or cardboard coverings. Despite the randomness each block especially the residential parts had a similar feel to them.
“The layout of all of the houses is generally the same. Initial entry by the front door leads to a small room with two interior doors. The two doors are the entrances to two adjacent, open sitting rooms. The size of the rooms is directly proportionate to the size of the house. At the end of the sitting rooms are interior doors that open up into a central hallway. The central hallway is where all of the first floor rooms lead, and it contains the ladder well to the second deck. The second deck will contain more rooms and an exit to the middle rooftop. The middle rooftop will have an exterior ladder well leading up to the highest rooftop.” (Infantry Squad Tactics, Marine Corps gazzette)
Catanagus looked over the op plan one more time. His team was taking on a big task he thought. Each squad had a lane of “zones” to clear comprised of blocks they had numbered. The 2 platoons of Alpha company and supporting elements were tasked with a 60 zone area to clear.
The squads could rely on good support, rapid CAAT and aerial recon. Most of all they had a Tank within 2-3 minutes for the tough nuts, as well as Bradleys fit with M203’s and 4.2 inch mortars.
Down the line NCO’s reviewed approaches scanned fresh recon post bombardment and made last minute adjustments.
Each zone was about 50mX50m, several zones made up a numbered blocks. It would take a squad per building to do a clearing per house. It was going to be a long day.
Part 2 coming soon.