Catching bad guys no laughing matter for 'Joker'

4 Feb 2007 | Staff Sgt. Tracie G. Kessler

Golf Company Marines from the California-based Battalion Landing Team 2/4, were responsible for the capture of a highly sought after individual in the Barwanah area.

Golf Company, call sign Joker, received word to be on the lookout for a known high valued individual. It was only minutes after receiving a picture of him that he was caught. The capture was not made during house-to-house fighting or after a long exhausting city-wide search but while he was attempting to enter through the pedestrian entry control point in Northern Barwanah.

According to Capt Clinton L. Robins, company commander for Golf Company, the HVI was responsible for recent mortar attacks against the entry control point, attacks against Fox Company, BLT 2/3, an adjacent unit also operating in the area, and was loosely involved in improvised explosive device attacks against Golf Company in the opening days of operations in Barwanah in early December.

“We believe [he] is the leader of the indirect fire cell here in Barwanah. We haven’t had a mortar attack since he’s been detained in our area of operations at lease in Barwanah,” said Robins, a Mill Creek, Okla., native.

It is unknown how many times he had moved in and out of the ECP, Robins said. Having a very passable fake identification card enabled him to pass through the city at will. Once there was a face to put with the name, his time was up, he said.

“He was carrying a fake ID, a very good fake ID and if we didn’t have his picture we never would have caught him,” said Robins.

Needless to say, Robins was quite surprised his Marines caught the suspect as quickly as they did.

“I thought it was going to be a dry hole—a false alarm, but it was the guy,” said Robins. “There was no doubt in our mind that he was the guy in the picture.”

The attention to detail and the quality work the Marines and sailors of Golf Company produced is what attributed to the capture of such a highly valued individual, said Robins.

“It further cements that the guys who are winning this fight are the squads all the way down to smallest level. It was a real sharp job,” said Robins.

The person who found the suspect was not a Marine but the platoon corspman, Petty Officer 3rd Class Terrence Crossley Jr. with 1st Platoon, Golf Company.

Crossley explained that no more than 30 minutes passed from the time the list was handed out to his post until the time he recognized the individual coming through the checkpoint.

Crossley first noticed him from a distance. As soon as he was able to get a look at his face, he knew right away it was the guy they were looking for.

“I already knew it was him. When I first saw him from the side I was , but when he turned full face—I knew it was him,” said Crossley.

Crossley was surprised the HVI was actually walking through the checkpoint. He explained, he was casually walking through the checkpoint with his bicycle like he had been through there many times before.

Notifying his platoon sergeant next, a comparison was done to confirm this was indeed the right person they were looking for. It was then decided this had to be the guy.

“It’s still pretty much unbelievable. He was just walking through. To make a big catch like that without a big incident is pretty good,” said Crossley.

“I studied the list once we got it because I’m a “just in case” kind of guy. I’m pretty good with remembering faces,” said Crossley.

Lance Cpl Jason Epstein, a rifleman with 1st Platoon, Golf Company, who was working with Crossley that day attributes finding the HVI to the hard work the Marines and Sailors do everyday.

“We were just doing our job. It wasn’t like we were saying ‘We gotta catch this guy today’. We saw the picture, we saw the guy and we caught him,” said Epstein.

Since the capture of such a high value individual, Epstein believes this may have put a slight dent in the insurgent activities that could go on in the future.

Epstein noted there were many men on the list wanted in connection to insurgent activities that he believes he has seen come through the checkpoint before but has not seen them since detaining their suspect.

“There were a couple of other people we had on the list that we could swear we’ve seen before walking through the checkpoints everyday and then after that guy got caught, we haven’t seen them again. I think that they are definitely treading lightly and thinking a lot more before messing around,” said Epstein.

Golf Company and Battalion Landing Team 2/4 are deployed to Iraq as a part of the Camp Pendleton-base 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Headquarters Marine Corps