Within 20 minutes of launch we were at our limit of exploitation. The intelligence we had received, that insurgents were actively patrolling the riverbanks, proved accurate. No sooner had we arrived when the enemy engaged the front two boats from a range of 50 meters. A mix of HMG and small arms fire ripped overhead, some rounds striking the gunnerâ€™s Kevlar plates on the GPMG mounts, others passing directly through the open console of the craft. Immediately, we returned fire into the building and riverbank positions where the enemy had foolishly tried to take us on. The rear SURCS maneuvered forward and increased our return fire. The craft turned 180 degrees to enable the rear .50 caliber guns and MK19 to fully engage the attackers.
The craft then moved upstream 300 meters and established the FOB. Luckily we had survived what would prove to be the first of several ambushes.
The Fallujah offensive lasted approximately 19 days of which SCCo spent 15 days operating from the FOB. We took on multiple tasks and certainly proved an asset to the land force commanders. Each day we were subjected to mortar and rocket attacks, snipers, and heavy, medium and small arms fire.
Seven days into the operation, on November 15, at 1500 hours, we were tasked to search a compound for a suspected weapons cache in our TAOR. We decided to set a diversionary maneuver and patrol upriver past our intended target, with the intention of inserting the GCE further upstream. All was going according to plan, however, a well-prepared ambush lay in wait. The insurgents had actually dug in several fighting positions along the riverbank with good cover and concealment. Just as the two lead boats (with myself and GCE embarked) started to about turn, we came under sustained RPG, RPK and small arms fire. Rather than attempt to drive through the ambush the boats turned directly into the ambush. With GPMGs, MK19s, .50 cal and even the GAU 17 returning fire, we closed their position. No sooner had the two SURCs rammed into the riverbank than I disembarked with my two fire teams and the ever-enthusiastic Captain â€˜Wâ€™ and began assaulting the fire positions. Over the next 48 minutes we were in contact, fire and maneuvering across irrigation fields, closing with and destroying the enemy.
During this time the SURCs and crew were taking RPG and small arms fire, yet they still managed to provide us invaluable fire support. It seems that a local village not 400 meters from our position was accommodating a large number of insurgents that had obviously fled from Fallujah. It soon became apparent that we were nearly surrounded, as we started taking fire from left and right and to the rear. We were greatly outnumbered and running low on ammunition; with an ever-increasing number of insurgents pressuring our position, we decided to call in the SURCs to conduct a hot extraction. We finally broke contact after 68 minutes. The only casualty was a lance corporal.
The Fallujah offensive continued for another eight days, during which time we continued to engage pockets of insurgents both from the boats and on the ground. We were also subjected to several attacks involving extremely close air burst mortar fire, sometimes falling 10 meters from the boats.