AMIRIYAH, Iraq -- A small town south of Fallujah provides another benchmark in the Coalition Forces’ mission to train Iraqi Security Forces and turn over increasing responsibility for security.
Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment turned over responsibility for security in the rural town of Amiriyah and the surrounding area south of Fallujah to Iraqi security forces recently.
The Marine battalion moved to an area closer to Ramadi. They are relieving a U.S. Army unit scheduled to redeploy to the states as part of the overall plan to reduce the number of combat units in Iraq.
A platoon of Marines from I Company lived at the forwarding operating base here since arriving in Iraq nearly five months ago, working closely with Iraqi Army soldiers and Iraqi Police officers. They fought alongside each other ducking bullets and rocket-propelled grenades while building confidence in the local population.
“Our main mission was to train the IA’s and IP’s with joint patrols, training and classes,” said Staff Sgt. Trent M. Templet, the 27-year-old platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon from Plaquemine, La. “We did joint patrols at first and then eventually gave them their own sectors. When we first got here we were taking a lot of contact; small arms, rockets and RPG’s.”
The Marines were able to secure the area as the local police station was repaired and fortified.
“It’s calmed down a lot in the last few months,” Templet said. “We secured the Amiriyah area for the citizens. We made it a safer place for them and hopefully it will stay safe.”
Increasing the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces takes time and patience.
“We trained the IA’s and worked everyday with them,” Templet said. “They did some of their own cordon-and-knocks. They even rescued a woman who was kidnapped about three weeks ago.”
Another part of their mission was to try and stabilize the area by working with the local community leadership.
“We worked with the city council and the mayor,” Templet explained. “There was no council when we arrived, just a mayor who was hard to track down.”
Marines in the platoon considered their time at the forward operating base in Amiriyah well spent.
“This FOB served its purpose because it provided the people a sense of security,” Templet said. “When we talked to people they would say how thankful they were that we were here and they wanted IP’s. We got them IP’s and they were thankful.
“We would like to have stayed here the whole deployment but I guess it’s time to go,” he added. “We feel good about everything we accomplished here. We accomplished what we set out to do. We got the ISF in Amiriyah and got a city council.”
The battle positions were initially turned over to a platoon from D Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion. The Marines, trained to operate large amphibious troop carriers – called amtracs – facilitated the departure of infantry battalion by assuming security for the forward operating base while it closed.
The platoon’s mission was to continue security operations along the highways, provide local presence of Coalition Forces and allow for safe passages of forces as the American bases in the area were closed, according to Staff Sgt. Philip M. Collins, a 29-year-old section leader with D Company from Houston.
“We’re just a couple of days here,” Collins said. “We just roll with the punches. We go where the fight is and do what we have to do.”
The platoon took over the patrols and operations while the infantry packed up and headed out, according to Lance Cpl. Michael J. Donnelly, a 23-year-old assault amphibian vehicle crewman from Roswell, Ga.
“I like doing the grunt work because it’s fun, it’s something different,” Donnelly said.
The mission is not a typical mission for the amtrac Marines, but it’s a mission they readily seized.
“We’ve been doing a lot more dismounted type operations,” Collins said. “In the past, we were primarily supporting the infantry, now we are taking on both roles of amtrackers and infantry.”
The company’s non-commissioned and staff non-commissioned officers play a big role in assisting the Marines with the additional responsibilities.
“The Marines are doing both roles superbly,” Collins said. “Most have less than a year’s experience in amtracs, let alone infantry experience. I think it says a lot about the NCO’s and staff NCO’s in the company. They are passing on their knowledge and experience to the Marines, and they are doing it.”
“Doing grunt stuff, then moving back to amtracs, helps to know the infantry mindset and what they do,” said Cpl. Mike R. Rozier, 24, from St. Louis and an assistant section leader with D Company. “It allows us to support them better.”
“We pushed through this area last year. This area has gotten better since then,” added Rozier, who deployed with B Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion to Iraq last year. “We were the first Americans in the area and now we’ll be some of the last.”
Quite a bit can be accomplished in a year’s time in Iraq.
“It’s good because it says a lot about the progress of IA’s and IP’s,” Rozier said. “They do their own stuff. We are more in a support role.”
“It’s up to the Iraqis now,” Templet added. “It’s on them to make this city what they want it to be. Hopefully the insurgents won’t stick around.”