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Riverines combat guerrilla tactics, enforce new curfew

By Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser | | October 3, 2007

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According to the book, “Riverine Warfare: The U.S. Navy’s Operations on Inland Waters,” President John F. Kennedy once described the transformation of modern warfare as, “Another type of warfare – new in intensity, ancient in its origin – war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins – war by ambush instead of aggression – seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.”

The historical guidebook continues by stating the first step in defeating an enemy who utilizes guerrilla tactics is to isolate them by interdicting their supply lines, a tactic the Marines, soldiers and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 2 are employing in Al Anbar Province.

As the Islamic ritual of Ramadan gets underway, the sailors with Riverine Squadron 1, Riverine Group 1, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, attached to RCT- 2, ramped up their patrols to enforce the temporary 24-hour curfew on the western Euphrates River, and continued their vigilance in supporting other units within the regiment.

“You have to have guys out here on the water,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nickolas W. Tilliman, a gunners mate with the squadron’s Detachment 3, Maritime Interdiction Operations Team. “You have Marines and soldiers on the roads, but if you got nobody in the water, there is no hope of stopping the flow of weapons or illegal activity.”

The regiment declared the temporary curfew on the waterway to stem the suspected increase of enemy activity on the river during the Islamic holy month.

“Most of the guys we intercept are just regular fishermen, but its better to be safe than sorry. You could very easily hide a few AKs or explosives under the nets in those boats,” said Tilliman, a Gainesville, Fla., native.

In addition to patrolling the waterways and boat interdiction, the sailors, commonly known as riverines, are also responsible for the security of the Hadithah Dam, sweeping the islands for weapon caches, and providing security and support for the adjacent ground units within the regiment.

“We go out with just about everyone,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Lance C. Zielinski, a gunners mate with the detachment’s MIO team. “We’ve gone out with the Seals, Marines, Army, whoever we can help.”

The riverines also get their local Iraqi Security Forces involved in operations by taking them along on their boats to help with security and communication.

“We like to bring Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police with our MIO to do ground sweeps and scouting. It’s working really well and they like the change of pace from regular ground patrols,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua L. Jackson, an aft (rear) gunner with the detachment.

The riverines said they enjoyed the change of pace from working on a big ship to a more operational inland force.

“I enjoy these missions more,” said Zielinski, a Phoenix native. “You have more immediate job satisfaction because you can see the results of your work instead of being a piece of a huge machine. You carry a weapon and actually feel like you are contributing to the war. It’s great.”

“This changes your perspective,” agreed Tilliman. “You become more like a family because you are working with such a small number of guys and you are all so close for so long. I think we all know why the Corps is called a band of brothers now, you really do get that close.”

The squadron, which was trained and deployed in less than a year, is the first Navy riverine unit to be deployed since their predecessors, the Army and Navy joint Mobile Riverine Force, during the Vietnam War.

For more information on riverines or their history visit www.mrfa.org or www.navy.com.


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