Participating Units and Command Structure
The NYTimes has a new graphic of the advance and the forces involved on their front page. The graphic identifies six different units: 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment:This battalion has been located in and responsible for Fallujah since August. 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment: This battalion was probably shifted from Ramadi. 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, US Army Cavalry: This unit has been chosen for its armor, which is most likely split between the two previous Marine battalions. All three of these battalions are probably under the operational control of the 1st Marine Regiment. 1st Battalion, 8th Marines: This battalion has been shifted to Fallujah from the far west of Al-Anbar province. The battalion website notes that it deployed from the east coast with reinforced command and control and logistics assets - perhaps it alone completely replaced 7th Marines in the West. 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment: This is the Battalion Landing Team for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. It is based in Okinawa. The MEUs are being used. 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment, US Army infantry: This battalion could be the one that The Black Watch relieved in place last week. All three of these battalions are probably under the operational control of the 31st MEU. This reporting indicates that the forces which seized the bridges and the hospital were merely blocking them off and no advance is being made across the Euphrates. The 31st MEU (REIN) and the 1st Marine Regiment (REIN) are now driving into the northern part of the city, and if insurgents flee, they'll have to cross the highway running through the heart of the city, or perhaps travel along it. The highway is most likely a free-fire zone for US air assets. The plan could be to force the insurgents to either fight (and die) in their fortified positions in the north, or flee to the south where there is less advantage to them (and be attrited by air in the process). Also, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's homepage is showing that the Black Watch is falling under the operational control of the 24th MEU. This makes sense geographically, as the 24th MEU is in Babil Province. The 24th MEU's mission, reinforced with the Black Watch, is likely Rear Area Security, and possibly to act as an anvil, though I am beginning to waver on this point. The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Homepage states that the 11th MEU is in the Najaf - Diwaniyah area. Perhaps they are merely continuing to pursue security and stabilization operations. The update on the page is a week old though. All three deployed MEU's in one theater at a time is highly unusual -- another sign they've been planning this for months. MEU's are strategic assets, and their movements are called by folks VERY HIGH up the totem pole. Other probable Marine unit locations: 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines: Northern Babil province, reporting to the 24th MEU. 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines: Al Asad, watching the western portion of Al-Anbar province. 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: Ramadi, probably under the control of the Fifth Marines HQ. Tomorrow, perhaps we can roll all of this into an org chart and post it.