“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.

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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.

On this particular cordon and search operation, our SEALs from Charlie Platoon and Task Unit Bruiser would provide sniper overwatch, while our SEAL combat advisors would manage a pla- toon of Iraqi soldiers participating in the clearance on the ground. Jocko teamed up with the Army battalion’s operations officer, who would help manage the clearance, while Jocko would pro- vide command and control as well as coordination of our SEAL elements supporting the operation.

In planning, we decided to set up two separate SEAL sniper overwatch positions several hundred  meters apart to cover the U.S. Army and Iraqi Army cordon and search teams as they entered buildings block by block across the sector. The first SEAL sniper overwatch position, OP1, led by Charlie Platoon’s assistant officer- in-charge, would take position in a large four-story apartment building some three hundred meters to the east of COP Falcon to protect the northern flank of the cordon and search teams. I would lead a second SEAL sniper overwatch position, OP2, of eight SEALs and seven Iraqi soldiers. We planned to take position about one kilometer southeast of COP Falcon along the southern flank of the cordon and search teams. The area was heavily IED’ed.

At 0200 local time (or two o’clock in the morning), those of us in OP2 stepped off via foot patrol from COP Falcon into the dark and dangerous Ramadi streets. Empty at this hour, all appeared quiet. But in this neighborhood, enemy fighters could be waiting around every corner. The other SEAL overwatch team, OP1, would depart an hour later, since their position was very near the friendly combat outpost and it was one they knew well, having utilized this position before. My team, OP2, had much farther to travel, and not having been in any of the buildings in the immediate area, we would need more time to establish a good position. On the patrol in, I served as patrol leader positioned second from the front, just behind the point man. We moved as quietly as possible through the streets, weapons trained at every angle, watching for enemy, ready for contact at all times. We took great care to avoid debris, such as trash piles on the street or other suspicious items, being deliberate in where we stepped, as the threat from IEDs was substantial. Each man carried a heavy load of weapons, ammunition, and water, in anticipation of what we knew could likely be a big and lengthy fight come daylight.

Extreme Ownership-Iraq-3-SOFREP

This urban war zone was straight out of a Hollywood set for a World War II movie, like the ones we watched growing up: walls riddled with bullet holes, burnt-out cars in the streets, rubbled buildings, and bomb craters. It was surreal to be in a place filled with such violence and destruction.  We continued our patrol down the dusty, trash-covered streets, weapons bristling in all directions. Our patrol snaked through alleyways, avoiding the rare operating streetlamp (most had been shot out or didn’t have electrical power), and maneuvered the best we could around packs of mangy street dogs whose barking could give away our position. We planned to utilize a two-story house as our OP2 overwatch position and thought it would provide a clear view to cover the cordon and search teams’ southern flank.

After a twenty-minute patrol without incident we arrived at the location. Just outside the walled compound, the entire element took up security positions around the gate. With weapons covering, we boosted a couple of our Iraqi soldiers over the wall. They quickly unbolted the gate from the inside and then let the rest of us in. SEAL shooters and Iraqi soldiers swiftly but quietly flowed into the compound and moved toward the house’s front door. Iraqi soldiers knocked and instructed the family inside to open up. A bewildered Iraqi man answered the door and complied. SEALs quickly cleared the compound, checking each room, a second-story balcony, the rooftop, and the interior courtyard for threats. Once clear, we set security positions.

The house provided a decent view in one direction along the main road. In the other direction, however, it offered little vantage point except from an exposed balcony. It was also difficult to place key security positions without exposing personnel to attack from surrounding buildings. Our OP2 snipers brought these significant concerns to me and our platoon’s leading petty officer (LPO)—one of my most trusted leaders. We were in a bind.

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“We could take the building next door and maintain a security contingent there,” the LPO offered. It was a great idea, and we decided to pursue that option.

Leaving a team in place, we sent a clearance team to the adjacent building. But what they found was not encouraging: the vantage point was no better. Positioning adequate security forces in two different buildings would spread us extremely thin, especially in such a dangerous neighborhood crawling with heavily armed muj. With this option not practical, I talked things over with the LPO. It was still dark, but sunrise was not far off, and the first call to prayer would soon echo from the mosque minarets and awaken the city. Time was running out to get into position, especially as the cordon and search teams of Army Soldiers, our SEAL advisor teams and Iraqi soldiers would commence their operation soon and were depending on our sniper overwatch team to cover them.

“no options are good,” I lamented. “But our least bad option is to pull everyone back to our original building and secure that position as best we can.” The LPO agreed and immediately executed the plan. We knew the position had substantial vulnerabilities, but we would have to do all we could to mitigate such risks. Our SEAL snipers took positions to best protect the troops on the ground, and then we placed the rest of our team in positions to protect the snipers, one of whom was somewhat exposed on the balcony. With the position set, OP2’s SEAL radioman made a call to our other SEAL sniper overwatch, OP1, reporting our position. We then checked in on Team Bulldog’s net and passed our location to Jocko, who was with Team Bulldog at COP Falcon, so he could coordinate with the other troops on the ground.

“Aaaaallllllaaaaaaaaaahhhhhuu Akbar . . .” echoed the first call to prayer from the minaret loudspeakers of mosques through- out the city, signaling the dawning of the day. Soon, the first rays of light painted the eastern horizon, and South-Central Ramadi began to awaken. Even in this war-torn city, some semblance of normal life carried on. People emerged from their houses. Cars and trucks backed out of driveways and made their way down city streets. Shepherd boys drove their herds of sheep down the road to graze along the fertile banks of the Euphrates River. The sun rose with searing heat which would crescendo midday to baking temperatures of over 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Over the radio, the Soldiers of Team Bulldog signaled their cordon and search operation was under way. Dozens of Soldiers (including the SEAL advisor and Iraqi soldier clearance team) moved out from COP Falcon accompanied by armored firepower from Abrams tanks and Bradley vehicles. From our position hundreds of meters away, OP2 could hear the heavy grind of tank tracks on pavement and the rev of their powerful gas turbine engines. I checked in with Jocko via radio, as he moved out with the cordon and search team. All was proceeding according to plan.

In such a nasty neighborhood, it didn’t take long for enemy fighters to mount an attack. The first attempts came from the north. OP2 could hear the report of big rifles as OP1’s SEAL snipers hammered a couple of armed insurgents moving to attack. Soon, our OP2 snipers observed three enemy fighters with AK-47s and an RPG rocket maneuvering through the streets toward the clearance teams. SEAL snipers engaged, hitting two of the three and sending the third running for cover. With those shots, the enemy had a good indication of where we were. Within the hour, the first bursts of muj machine gun fire snapped over the heads of the two SEALs positioned on the balcony. It was only the beginning, as the enemy sporadically engaged our building and probed our position. We knew their attacks would no doubt grow bolder as they pinpointed our position and the day progressed.

Extreme Ownership-Iraq-5-SOFREP

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.

On this particular cordon and search operation, our SEALs from Charlie Platoon and Task Unit Bruiser would provide sniper overwatch, while our SEAL combat advisors would manage a pla- toon of Iraqi soldiers participating in the clearance on the ground. Jocko teamed up with the Army battalion’s operations officer, who would help manage the clearance, while Jocko would pro- vide command and control as well as coordination of our SEAL elements supporting the operation.

In planning, we decided to set up two separate SEAL sniper overwatch positions several hundred  meters apart to cover the U.S. Army and Iraqi Army cordon and search teams as they entered buildings block by block across the sector. The first SEAL sniper overwatch position, OP1, led by Charlie Platoon’s assistant officer- in-charge, would take position in a large four-story apartment building some three hundred meters to the east of COP Falcon to protect the northern flank of the cordon and search teams. I would lead a second SEAL sniper overwatch position, OP2, of eight SEALs and seven Iraqi soldiers. We planned to take position about one kilometer southeast of COP Falcon along the southern flank of the cordon and search teams. The area was heavily IED’ed.

At 0200 local time (or two o’clock in the morning), those of us in OP2 stepped off via foot patrol from COP Falcon into the dark and dangerous Ramadi streets. Empty at this hour, all appeared quiet. But in this neighborhood, enemy fighters could be waiting around every corner. The other SEAL overwatch team, OP1, would depart an hour later, since their position was very near the friendly combat outpost and it was one they knew well, having utilized this position before. My team, OP2, had much farther to travel, and not having been in any of the buildings in the immediate area, we would need more time to establish a good position. On the patrol in, I served as patrol leader positioned second from the front, just behind the point man. We moved as quietly as possible through the streets, weapons trained at every angle, watching for enemy, ready for contact at all times. We took great care to avoid debris, such as trash piles on the street or other suspicious items, being deliberate in where we stepped, as the threat from IEDs was substantial. Each man carried a heavy load of weapons, ammunition, and water, in anticipation of what we knew could likely be a big and lengthy fight come daylight.

This urban war zone was straight out of a Hollywood set for a World War II movie, like the ones we watched growing up: walls riddled with bullet holes, burnt-out cars in the streets, rubbled buildings, and bomb craters. It was surreal to be in a place filled with such violence and destruction.  We continued our patrol down the dusty, trash-covered streets, weapons bristling in all directions. Our patrol snaked through alleyways, avoiding the rare operating streetlamp (most had been shot out or didn’t have electrical power), and maneuvered the best we could around packs of mangy street dogs whose barking could give away our position. We planned to utilize a two-story house as our OP2 overwatch position and thought it would provide a clear view to cover the cordon and search teams’ southern flank.

After a twenty-minute patrol without incident we arrived at the location. Just outside the walled compound, the entire element took up security positions around the gate. With weapons covering, we boosted a couple of our Iraqi soldiers over the wall. They quickly unbolted the gate from the inside and then let the rest of us in. SEAL shooters and Iraqi soldiers swiftly but quietly flowed into the compound and moved toward the house’s front door. Iraqi soldiers knocked and instructed the family inside to open up. A bewildered Iraqi man answered the door and complied. SEALs quickly cleared the compound, checking each room, a second-story balcony, the rooftop, and the interior courtyard for threats. Once clear, we set security positions.

The house provided a decent view in one direction along the main road. In the other direction, however, it offered little vantage point except from an exposed balcony. It was also difficult to place key security positions without exposing personnel to attack from surrounding buildings. Our OP2 snipers brought these significant concerns to me and our platoon’s leading petty officer (LPO)—one of my most trusted leaders. We were in a bind.

“We could take the building next door and maintain a security contingent there,” the LPO offered. It was a great idea, and we decided to pursue that option.

Extreme Ownership-SOFREP

Leaving a team in place, we sent a clearance team to the adjacent building. But what they found was not encouraging: the vantage point was no better. Positioning adequate security forces in two different buildings would spread us extremely thin, especially in such a dangerous neighborhood crawling with heavily armed muj. With this option not practical, I talked things over with the LPO. It was still dark, but sunrise was not far off, and the first call to prayer would soon echo from the mosque minarets and awaken the city. Time was running out to get into position, especially as the cordon and search teams of Army Soldiers, our SEAL advisor teams and Iraqi soldiers would commence their operation soon and were depending on our sniper overwatch team to cover them.

“no options are good,” I lamented. “But our least bad option is to pull everyone back to our original building and secure that position as best we can.” The LPO agreed and immediately executed the plan. We knew the position had substantial vulnerabilities, but we would have to do all we could to mitigate such risks. Our SEAL snipers took positions to best protect the troops on the ground, and then we placed the rest of our team in positions to protect the snipers, one of whom was somewhat exposed on the balcony. With the position set, OP2’s SEAL radioman made a call to our other SEAL sniper overwatch, OP1, reporting our position. We then checked in on Team Bulldog’s net and passed our location to Jocko, who was with Team Bulldog at COP Falcon, so he could coordinate with the other troops on the ground.

“Aaaaallllllaaaaaaaaaahhhhhuu Akbar . . .” echoed the first call to prayer from the minaret loudspeakers of mosques through- out the city, signaling the dawning of the day. Soon, the first rays of light painted the eastern horizon, and South-Central Ramadi began to awaken. Even in this war-torn city, some semblance of normal life carried on. People emerged from their houses. Cars and trucks backed out of driveways and made their way down city streets. Shepherd boys drove their herds of sheep down the road to graze along the fertile banks of the Euphrates River. The sun rose with searing heat which would crescendo midday to baking temperatures of over 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Over the radio, the Soldiers of Team Bulldog signaled their cordon and search operation was under way. Dozens of Soldiers (including the SEAL advisor and Iraqi soldier clearance team) moved out from COP Falcon accompanied by armored firepower from Abrams tanks and Bradley vehicles. From our position hundreds of meters away, OP2 could hear the heavy grind of tank tracks on pavement and the rev of their powerful gas turbine engines. I checked in with Jocko via radio, as he moved out with the cordon and search team. All was proceeding according to plan.

In such a nasty neighborhood, it didn’t take long for enemy fighters to mount an attack. The first attempts came from the north. OP2 could hear the report of big rifles as OP1’s SEAL snipers hammered a couple of armed insurgents moving to attack. Soon, our OP2 snipers observed three enemy fighters with AK-47s and an RPG rocket maneuvering through the streets toward the clearance teams. SEAL snipers engaged, hitting two of the three and sending the third running for cover. With those shots, the enemy had a good indication of where we were. Within the hour, the first bursts of muj machine gun fire snapped over the heads of the two SEALs positioned on the balcony. It was only the beginning, as the enemy sporadically engaged our building and probed our position. We knew their attacks would no doubt grow bolder as they pinpointed our position and the day progressed.

Extreme-Ownership-SOFREP-Navy-SEALs-Leadership

To learn more about Extreme Ownership, and to support these two Navy SEAL authors, click here to buy the book.