Aug 25, 2006

Fishing for insurgents on the Euphrates

The Marines' Small Unit Riverine Crafts patrol the ancient river.
The unit — which falls under the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battery, 2nd Marine Division — consists of roughly a handful of the highly maneuverable, low-profile boats. Each boat measures 40 feet long and weighs 11 tons and carries a mix of heavy and light machine guns.

The unit was initially created to guard a major dam in Haditha, but was detached to Ramadi in early May.

Since that time, the unit has been used to transport Navy SEALs on stealth missions and to cut off river escape routes for insurgents during cordon-and- search operations. The unit also patrols the river regularly, hunting for insurgents and weapons.

While the SURCs are armed with Gatling guns and .50-caliber machine guns, they are only lightly armored. This is the main reason the unit operates only at night.

So far, the unit has been attacked twice.

The first time was when Marines were placing their boats in the water. The river boats are towed to a number of launch sites along the river by seven-ton trucks and backed into the river on trailers. On one occasion, insurgents launched a mortar attack while the boats were putting in and six Marines were injured.

The second time, roughly a month and a half ago, insurgents opened up on the boats from both riverbanks, firing rocket-propelled grenades and bullets at the line of boats.

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