CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Thoughts from a former British Para

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Thoughts from a former British Para

An Alert Reader emails his assessment of the battlefield. He is an "ex. Para Regiment officer who went into Iraq last March attached to 1 (UK) Armd Div HQ as an ops/int officer." [My notes in brackets.] "First, the attack on Fallujah is being run by MajGen Rick Natonski, and the precise nature of the command chain is difficult to establish."   [Have I mentioned on this blog that my boss at work was a Marine too? Yesterday at lunch he told me his TBS roommate was Rick Natonski. Unbelievable.][I completely agree; getting a handle on this chain of command is difficult.] "For example: 24 MEU is still running North Babil province with the UK BG under tacon, but the BLT has moved north to assist in the Fallujah operation.  So, in that sense, 24 MEU is not part of the operation, but 1/2 Marines are.  But who are they reporting to?  1 MarDiv directly, or some lower command?  So my start point is who was where BEFORE this operation kicked off." [I bet the 24th MEU is reporting directly to I MEF; this allows Gen Natonski and 1MarDiv to focus on Fallujah while I MEF worries about the rest of its zone. If the Euphrates is a major demarcation of unit sectors, this would also make sense, as 1MarDiv would have the north, and various other units, incl 24th MEU, the south.] "1 Mar Div had 5 RCT and 7 RCT under command, also 11, 24 and 31 MEU and several other 'independant' units." [Sounds about right, but where is RCT-1? For the uninitiated, RCTs 1,5, and 7 are organic to 1MarDiv. Hang on, it gets more complicated still.] "11 MEU has 1/4 Marines under command.  They remain further south responsible for Najaf and Diwaniyah." [Makes sense . . .] "24 MEU had 1/2 Marines and 2/24 Marines under command.  The 1/2 Marines were replaced by the British Back Watch BG, but it is likely the 2/24 Marines have remained in place." [I agree. 2/24 is a reserve infantry battalion, I think from Chicago, and reserve battalions, like it or not, usually get guard duty somewhere while battles kick off. Not always though. A California reserve bn was organic to RCT1 during the invasion and performed superbly.]   "31 MEU has 1/3 Marines under command.  I'm not sure where exactly, but on 30 Oct they lost about 6 marines.  It seems pretty likely that they are involved in the Fallujah operation, but from which direction?" [We now know that they came from the north, with 5 other battalions. Still not sure what regimental commands are in charge of what battalions though. I said the other day that I thought 31st Marines was in charge of 1/3 and Army's 2/2 and USMC 1/8. I said this because Army involvement makes it joint, and MEU Command Elements are Joint-Task Force Enablers. But one Army battalion along with two USMC battalions isn't very joint, really, and a USMC RCT command would have no trouble C2ing the whole thing. But which one would it be?]    "As of August, 7 RCT under Col Craig Tucker consists of: 2d Force Recon Co 1/8 Marines - north west or Fallujah  1/7 Marines - Hit 1/23 Marines - out West....   3 LAR - out West....   C Co, 1st CEB 503d Iraqi National Guard Bn" [1/23 is also a reserve unit -- Texas Marines -- so they are probably still out west. Not saying they can't hack it, just saying that's what usually happens. We know that 1/8 is in Fallujah. And isn't RCT-7's command in Fallujah too? If so, who is left commanding the battalions guarding the Syrian border? Whatever is happening, units are getting attached and detached like it's going out of style.] "I'm trying to build up the units in 5 RCT, or is it 1 RCT??? as there seems to have been some recent changes.  2/5 Marines and 3/5 Marines are there or thereabouts, 2/1 Marines keep cropping up, but 1/5, 2/4 and 3/24 Marines I think have left.  1 tank btn was in theatre recently, and I think 3 AA btn too." [1/5 has definitely left the theater. Probably 3/24 too -- no mention of them at all past few days. And 2/4 is more than likely in a MEU train-up cycle, so it's not there.] "On the army side, there is plenty of talk about units 'in the area' but the only one that seems to have gone 'into' Fallujah is 2/7 Cavalry - an armoured recce TF.  Now, they were previously attached to 11 MEU during the attack on Najaf, so it seems they have become a sort of pseudo-marine unit!" [2/7 Cav is valuable b/c of its armor. If it participated in Najaf, then it is probably being used again in Fallujah because of unit experience and because it is the one that the 1st Cav has assigned to give the MEF if needed.] [The fact that so many units are organized in such an unusual way is a reflection of how long we've been there and the fact that the USMC is rotating battalions in 6-7 mo tours, rather than 12-14.]


Blogger JarheadDad said...

You better hurry up and figure it out 'cause IIMEF is relieving IMEF this Spring. Leaves little time before you have to do it all over again! :-o

November 11, 2004 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger M said...

I have heard from a friend who is an Army JAG officer, that the Army is considering the 6-7 month tour, using the USMC model.

The Marines have used this 6 month tour since at least when I was in (83-87). My friends who were in the Army would be somewhere for 1, 2, or 3 years.

It made deployment and training much easier, and was certainly more palatable for the Marines who were family guys. Besides, who wants 1, 2,or, 3 years on Oki? 6 months in Iraq, and 6 or more back home. This also will develop a hugely experienced Marine Corps. Something we will need to continue this world battle against these people.

November 11, 2004 at 8:33 PM  
Blogger 2nd Law said...

2/24 is my old reserve unit. You are correct that Hq. is out of Chicago. Exho Co. is from Des Moines/Chicago (split), Fox Co. from Milwaukee, WI, Gulf from Madison, WI and Weapons from Waukegon, IL. The best I can tell your assessment of what they are doing is more or less correct (working in Germany I am a bit out of "the loop"), although they have had a few Marines killed already, so it is rather dangerous "guard duty".

Elements of the Bn. made it into Kuwait in Desert Storm (STA and Weapons Co.), but we never saw any direct combat.

November 12, 2004 at 4:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great job Chester.

BTW, I Co. 23d Marines is out of Arkansas. Good unit, had a friend that served with them.

Also, 2/7 Cav. is Mech infantry. As a task force it likely has a tank company or two attached. 1/7 Cav. is the 1st Cav's Divisional Cavalry Squadron.

November 12, 2004 at 10:02 AM  

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