The first Det One Marines landed in Baghdad on April 6, 2004.  Fallujah had flared up only a short time before, with the killing and mutilation of the Blackwater contractors, and the Shi’a Sadrist rebellion was driving up from the south.  There was plenty of work to be done.

However, it wasn’t nearly as simple as getting on the ground and operating.  While the Det was working for SOCOM, the initial agreement between SOCOM and the Marine Corps was that the Det would be supported by the Marine Corps, not SOCOM.  However, the security situation on the roads around Baghdad had deteriorated to the point that the Marines were effectively cut off from I MEF.  They had to scrounge and beg from the NSW and Special Forces units they were stationed with.

Most of the counterintelligence Marines were farmed out to other elements of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula.  The Recon Element, now known as Task Unit Raider, remained intact in Baghdad.  While the vehicle, ammunition, and logistics situation got sorted out (which included the necessity of Capt. Matthew Kress having to go down to Kuwait to physically locate several cargo containers of ammunition that had gotten lost), Task Unit Raider trained, practicing CQB tactics and flow drills in structures of native construction.  Buildings in Iraq are made with different materials and rules than those in the states, and it was a new experience to many of the Marines.

Meanwhile, the operations section was working hard on targeting.  The Det’s chief purpose in Iraq was Direct Action: killing or capturing bad guys in fast raids.  But the first objective turned into a comedy of errors.

Originally labeled “Objective Rhino,” the target was a large concentration of insurgents to the west of Baghdad.  The warning order dropped from Combined Joint Task Force 7, the highest command in Iraq.  The Marines, with the help of soldiers from 2nd Bn, 5th Special Forces Group, began to examine the terrain and develop intel on the situation.  Further information continued to narrow down the target, which was renamed “Objective Rat.”  Finally, the target building was identified, at which point the entire mission was shelved.  The target was Abu Ghraib Prison.  How exactly CJTF 7’s intel section misidentified the chief detention facility in the country for an insurgent stronghold is unclear, but while it highlighted coordination and communications problems, it helped the Det One Marines to strengthen their relationship with their brother units in SOCOM and adjacent in the area.

The first real mission came in an unexpected form.  Word was passed that a female Iraqi working contract on Coalition bases was suspected of passing information to the insurgency.  That information had resulted in the murders of several of the contractor’s linguists.  This was not only damaging Coalition operations, it was damaging the trust between the locals and US forces.  “Rachel,” as the Iraqi woman was called, had to be taken in and interrogated.

GySgt John Dailey, Recon Team 4’s Team Leader, took lead, bringing GySgt William Johnston from the counter-intelligence section, a SEAL assigned to HUMINT duties, and a female member of Polish GROM.  The female GROM operative would be essential in capturing an Iraqi woman.  All four were dressed in civilian clothes, concealing soft armor and pistols, with their M4s concealed in their vehicles.

Proceeding to “Rachel’s” last place of employment, they were informed that she no longer worked there, but had shifted to a base outside the city.  Dailey contacted Maj Kozeniesky and Commander Wilson, wanting to continue following up.  They quickly gave him permission, and the four of them proceeded to the new site.