Marines here are hitting insurgents with an iron fist while offering an open hand of assistance to local villagers.
Marines of K Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment began a main effort to drive out insurgents and protect Iraqis in this area west of Habbaniyah. It’s called Operation Rubicon.
Marines pushed out into areas that have rarely seen Coalition Forces. They established a permanent forward operating base and are hunting down terrorists who haunted locals here and used their villages to launch attacks.
The battalion is serving in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.
“Our goal is to get the locals established and weed out the insurgents here,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy P. Hanson, a 30-year-old from Piedmont, Ala., who serves as a platoon sergeant with K Company.
Marines traveled under the sun’s sweltering rays for several days pursuing insurgents in regions that were once terrorist strongholds. They cleared cars, rooms, stairs and rooftops looking for anti-Iraqi Forces. Some platoons found them.
“We had two detainees and small-arms fire the first day,” Sgt. Earnest F. Murphy, a platoon guide assigned to K Company.
The 32-year-old machine gunner from Evergreen, Ala., said it all occurred when his platoon was patrolling the area. His Marines were attacked by enemy gunfire. They turned their march in the attackers’ direction.
Marines stopped at a nearby house to refocus their efforts, not knowing the house held the suspected insurgents.
“Something seemed fishy,” Murphy said.
So he and his team looked around the house. Murphy’s senses were right.
They found freshly-shot weapons, a large amount of money and improvised explosive device-making materials. That was all the Marines needed to take the suspected insurgents into custody.
“It was luck that we went into that house,” Murphy said.
By the end of the day, Marines found multiple weapon caches containing rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 155 and 125 mm shells, IED-making materials, AK-47 assault rifles and long range rifles, Hanson said.
Not every house the Marines stopped at was a hotbed of insurgents. Most were homes to simple Iraqi villagers who have been living in fear of the terrorists roaming their streets.
“Most everybody welcomed us into his or her homes,” Murphy explained.
One Iraqi man offered Murphy and his Marines food.
“We started eating our chow,” he said. “We offered him some. He said, ‘no’ but he started cooking food and offered us some of his food. We sat and ate with him.”
The Iraqi man prepared rice, soup with tomato, zucchini and onions, flatbread, homemade yogurt and chai tea for his hungry guests.
“It was all really good,” Murphy said.
Murphy added that wasn’t the only Iraqi home that catered to Marines. Another man opened his house when the Marines needed a place to eat a meal. He even waited on them.
“He picked up all our trash,” Murphy said. “He spoke good English, saying it was an honor for Marines to stay at his house. He showed us how to use the electricity and said we could take showers.”
Marines said gestures such as these will keep them going through their seven-month deployment.
“It’s nice to know that there are good people out there,” said Lance Cpl. Justin W. Randolph, a rifleman with K Company.
The 20-year-old point man from Cleveland, Tenn., said he felt Iraqis were starting to accept him and his teammates.
“We’re making more of an impact on them,” he said.
Randolph said it has gotten increasingly easier to show Iraqis that Marines are here to help, since his unit’s coexistence with the local population.
“They said they’re glad, safer with us in the area,” said
Although the unit is making progress with the locals, they want to let the insurgents know Marines aren’t going anywhere.
“This just means we’re a step closer to winning the Iraqis over,” said Sgt. Jeffrey J. Swartzenfruber, a 25-year-old rifleman from Coral Springs, Fla., who serves as platoon guide for K Company.