“So what are we doing?” asked our leading petty officer.

The clock was ticking and every second counted. There were no good options. Each one could have deadly consequences. But I had to make a call. [SOUTH-CENTRAL RAMADI,  IRAQ: COVERING THE FLANK]

“So what are we doing?” asked our leading petty officer.

The clock was ticking and every second counted. There were no good options. Each one could have deadly consequences. But I had to make a call.

As SEALs, we often protected the troops in the streets with our snipers and machine gunners in a type of operation we called “sniper overwatch.” By taking the high ground in buildings and positioning SEAL snipers where they could best observe and en- gage enemy fighters maneuvering to attack, we could eliminate threats and disrupt insurgent attacks before they could fully materialize. This helped mitigate the substantial risks to U.S. and Iraqi troops patrolling the streets, enabled them to more safely accomplish their mission, and ensured  more U.S. Soldiers and Marines came home alive to their families back in the States.

The U.S. Army’s Ready First Brigade Combat Team (1st Armored Division) adopted a radical and innovative strategy to take back Ramadi from the malevolent clutches of the insurgency— Seize, Clear, Hold, Build. It called for U.S. forces to penetrate into the most dangerous enemy-held neighborhoods, push back insurgent fighters, and construct permanent U.S. combat outposts from which to base further operations. Iraqi soldiers were brought in to take part in the effort. Once a foothold was established in enemy territory, the next step required a show of force in enemy controlled areas and engagement with the Iraqi populace in the neighborhood. Though the battles raged around them, hundreds of thousands of civilians lived in the city and simply tried to survive. Securing the people and protecting them from the brutal jihadi fighters that hid among them was the key to victory. Integral to the success of this strategy were cordon and search operations— clearing through city blocks house by house. Often executed during daylight hours, these operations could be treacherous for the U.S. Army Soldiers, Marines, and Iraqi troops as they cordoned off neighborhoods (or sectors) and moved street to street, building to building through some of the most violent areas of the city.

On one particular operation, Team Bulldog (U.S. Army Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment) planned a large cordon and search operation in a particularly dangerous area of South-Central Ramadi spanning several blocks from their base located in the heart of enemy territory,  a combat outpost called COP Falcon. Such an operation required some one hundred Soldiers on the ground, supported by armor—M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles—with their substantial firepower. Additional forces from the battalion were brought in to reinforce Team Bulldog in this effort.

Through dozens of dangerous combat operations, we had built an excellent working relationship with the U.S. Soldiers and tankers of Team Bulldog. Bulldog’s company commander was one of the finest combat leaders I have known. He and his Soldiers were exceptional warriors. Our SEALs had tremendous respect and admiration for their courage and fighting spirit as they lived everyday under constant attack, right in the heart of dangerous enemy territory.  Our SEAL elements worked out of COP Falcon and from there pushed even deeper into enemy territory.  When we were ferociously attacked by insurgents, which was often, the company commander personally mounted up in his tank, rallied his troops, and brought the thunder with the main guns of Team Bulldog’s M1A2 Abrams tanks to bear on our behalf. He and his Bulldog Soldiers were an outstanding group, eager to close with and destroy the enemy, and we loved them for it.