SHOHABI, Iraq -- Marines with C Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment are starting to turn over battle space to soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division.
The Iraqi soldiers participated in a combined patrol with Marines in a village north of Fallujah. It’s part of a relief-in-place where Iraqi soldiers will take up the posts and duties that have been filled by Marines.
“They are going to be taking over this area,” said Capt. Brian S. Middleton, the 30-year-old company commander from DeSoto, Texas. “This patrol is to help them get more familiar with the area.”
Marines began the morning by convoying to pick-up the Iraqi soldiers and bring them to the company’s forward operating post. The forces stepped off once they arrived at the post.
“Basically we are going on a security patrol through the area,” said Lance Cpl. David J. Ramos, a 19-year-old infantryman from San Antonio. “We are going to show the Iraqi soldiers the area and pass out some soccer balls and other things to the kids.”
A large portion of the battalion’s mission in Iraq has been to train and mentor the Iraqi soldiers. All of the Marines’ efforts are finally starting to show.
“We have worked with the Iraqis for several months now,” Ramos said. “We have been teaching them how to patrol and basically how we do things. It’s good to see that they have learned a lot.”
Marines took Iraqi soldiers through some locations in the community where insurgent activity has been prominent. They also showed them the locations of mosques, introduced them to a local sheik and patrolled the local market place.
“The people seemed to be very happy to see the Iraqi Army in the area today,” said Iraqi Army Capt. Abdul Wahab, the 32-year-old company commander. “The patrol went very well. I am proud of my men’s performance.”
Marines took a background approach as items were passed out to the Iraqi people. They stood by providing security as the Iraqi soldiers spoke with locals.
“It is important that we do these types of joint patrols with the Marines because it allows us to see how they have been running the area and they know the people and what the people need,” Wahab said.
The patrol lasted several hours with periodic stops to let Iraqi soldiers talk with the people. A humvee – full of soccer balls and school supplies – followed the patrol.
“It is good when we can stand back and let the Iraqis take over and run these patrols,” said Lance Cpl. Delmin R. Delarosa, a 21-year-old infantryman from Yonkers, N.Y. “They are going to be taking this area over in the next few weeks. It’s good that they are here doing this.”
These combined patrols will become a more common site it the area. It is all part of the mission to give greater responsibility for security to the Iraqi army, and for them to begin operating independently.
“Patrols like this one give us a glimpse of what the Iraqis are capable of,” Ramos said. “They are performing well. I think they are ready to take this area over for themselves.”