Award citations indicate the Marine Special Operators have been more involved in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria than originally believed. Information dating back to at least January 2016 shows that, while then-President Barack Obama and the Pentagon asserted that the battle was being fought “by and through” regional partners, Marines were “getting some” too.
According to award citations obtained by Task and Purpose, US Marines were doing more than fighting against ISIS using artillery. Some were even finding themselves in close combat, entering into small arms battles.
For example, an unnamed MARSOC Element Member, without any regard for his own safety, exposed himself to “heavy indirect and machine-gun fire” to kill 10 enemy fighters, destroy an enemy mortar position, and take out a tactical vehicle over the course of 12 120mm mortar fire missions.
A MARSOC Canine Handler received an award that indicated he and his military dog completed over 350 counter-IED sweeps in a period of six months, averaging out to two a day and suggesting that operators were tasked with patrolling outside of the wire fairly frequently.
He also “fired 6 fire missions while rounds were impacting within 75 meters of his position,” taking out two mortar positions and dispatching three enemy fighters while working as an 81mm mortar gunner. Later, as a 120mm mortar gunner, his location came under fire, but he managed to kill 10 enemy fighters.
In support of Operation Inherent Resolve, one special ops element leader took actions that led to the awarding of the Navy and Marine Achievement Award, with a combat distinguishing device, for combatting ISIS.
While working with Peshmerga in a battle near then-ISIS controlled Mosul, the element leader came under fire from mortars and rifles. He disregarded his own safety, firing 88 mortar rounds back toward the enemy, killing 24 fighters.
During another operation, the assistant element leader took out an ISIS sniper with mortars while under a “heavy volume of accurate” machine-gun fire.
The citations were all awarded for actions that took place between January 2016 and January 2017, indicating that, while the Marines may not have been on the front line, they certainly were an integral part of the fight against ISIS during that time.