GHARMAH, Iraq -- Marines are finding that one of the most essential elements in preventing insurgent activity is the simple but effective method of providing a visible presence to the population.
Marines from A Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment put this method into action by conducting foot patrols and vehicle checkpoints here May 9.
“This part of our mission is important,” said Cpl. Erick J. Pertz, a 25–year-old infantryman from Stillwater, Minn. “It is one of the many ways we can stop the flow of weapons from getting in the hands of insurgents.”
The Marines departed their base near Gharmah and established a forward patrol base from which they conducted their operations.
“We operate out of these locations for however many days we will be in the AO,” said Staff Sgt. Rolando C. Viado, the 34-year-old platoon commander from Sacramento, Calif.
One squad set up security at the patrol base while another squad prepared for their mission. Once things were in order, the Marines set out to conduct their patrol and establish vehicle checkpoints.
“Our goal is to disrupt the flow of the insurgency,” said Lance Cpl. Richard H. Pries, a 29-year-old mortarman from Baltimore, Md.
The Marines set up a checkpoint once they located a site that provided adequate security and a good view of the area. They placed signs and road cones to direct the Iraqi people into the checkpoint.
“We place the cones at the right distances for us to be able to control the flow of vehicles that come up for inspection,” Pries said. “Once the vehicles are in, we ask the passengers to exit the car and then conduct a search.”
Young and old alike exited their cars and willingly allowed the Marines to search their vehicles. The Marines also performed ‘pat downs’ of the male citizens to ensure the locals weren’t carrying illegal weapons on their person.
“We are not here to harass the people,” Pertz said. “We are here to help and this is one of the ways that we can stop weapons from flowing in and out of the area.”
The Marines didn’t locate any insurgents or discover any weapons during this vehicle checkpoint. However, the fact that there were no suspected insurgents and that the locals feel safe enough to travel unarmed, could be interpreted as a sign that security is improving in the area.
By conducting the vehicle checkpoints at random times and in various locations, Marines never know what they will discover.
“We haven’t gotten any high-value targets in my squad,” Pries said. “But other squads in the company have while conducting VCPs.”
Some of the residents were reluctant to approach the checkpoint while others eagerly moved through. All followed procedures and allowed the Marines to do their job.
“I am sure some people don’t like having to do these VCPs,” Pertz said. “But I know there are those who are glad to see us patrolling the area, keeping their country safe.”