The river delta of southern Iraq is the livelihood for many Iraqis in the area, providing important waterways for commerce and an all-important source of irrigation for farmers.

Recognizing the importance of these river highways, Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 1 began their six-month deployment from Little Creek, Va., in early May with their main focus on securing these routes.

U.S. Navy Lt. Gregory Roberts, officer-in-charge of Detachment 2, RIVRON 1, from Houston, said his Sailors' mission is more mutli-faceted than simply patrolling the water.

"We have several missions," Roberts said "One of them is doing [counter indirect-fire] patrols on the waterways, and we have other missions like training Iraqis."

Some of their other missions involve going ashore to pursue enemies, recovering downed aircraft, and gathering intelligence on the areas around the rivers.

Roberts, who is on his second deployment with the squadron, said that, while his unit has only had its current mission for less than two weeks, the squadron is well-prepared, as many of the Sailors are on their second or third deployments.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Washington, a gunner's mate from Saint Mary's County, Md., and one of the Sailors on his first deployment, said he is happy to be a part of a unique group.

"I had a small idea of what [Riverines] did and I volunteered for it," Washington said. "Toward the end of A-School, I found out I ended up making it. When I found out, I was excited; instead of going to the regular fleet, I was going to do something more specialized.

"I'm glad to be here, and I feel like I'm well-prepared to do what I was trained to do," he said.

Part of the preparation the Riverines went through before deployment included conducting contact drills on rivers at Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Pickett, Va., similar to how they would respond to contact in Iraq.

Roberts said the training has paid off, as indirect-fire incidents from near the rivers are virtually non-existent when the Riverines are conducting patrols.

While the counter-IDF mission is important for the security of both U.S. forces and Iraqis, the Riverines also work with their Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police counterparts to ensure that they are prepared to take over the river security mission when the U.S. forces are no long present.

Roberts said his detachment works with the Iraqi Army's 52nd Brigade to accomplish this mission.

As the Sailors zoomed down the river toward an Iraqi Army outpost to talk to an officer about the upcoming missions for RIVRON 1, Roberts said he felt good about the day's mission.

"It's a great day to be a Riverine," he said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16