GHARMAH, Iraq -- Marine from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment have spent the last few weeks transitioning responsibility for security here to the Iraqi Army.
More than 60 percent of the battalion’s original battle space is now the responsibility of the Iraqi Army.
“We are trying to teach the Iraqis how we do things out here,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua B. Jones, a 19-year-old rifleman from Mustang, Okla. “We are turning over this area to them. We want them to be able to take charge and run with it.”
One of the battalion’s primary missions during the deployment is to prepare the Iraqi Army to assume security for greater amounts of battle space.
Every joint patrol and operation that has been conducted since the battalion arrived here in January has served as a stepping stone towards meeting the overall mission of total transference of security responsibility of the Iraqi landscape to Iraqi security forces.
“What we are doing here is important,” said 2nd Lt. Gaswan Hussein, a 22-year-old unit commander with the Iraqi Army. “The Iraqi Army is stepping up to take responsibility over our own country.”
Forward operating posts all over the battalion’s battle space are now home to Iraqi soldiers. They are conducting constant patrols to ensure the safety of the local people.
“We only have three platoons of Marines left at three different posts,” Jones said. “The Iraqis are running them now. They are standing guard, conducting patrols and doing everything else we did when we were here.”
Names of the posts were changed when the Iraqi Army took over operations of the sites. Observation Post 4 is now OP Omar and OP Raider is now known as OP Muhamed. The Iraqis changed the names of these posts when they took over to honor Iraqis who have been killed in the fight against the insurgents.
The Iraqi Police Station in Gharmah is also now manned by Iraqi forces. The Marines that remain behind at the post are there to familiarize the Iraqis with the area.
“Our companies have now moved further north and west to establish new operating posts,” said Brian S. Middleton, the 30-year-old A Company commander from DeSoto, Texas. “The Iraqis are controlling battle space that Marines once patrolled and operated.”
The Iraqis are conducting improvised explosive device sweeps, security patrols, vehicle check points and all the other operations previously done by Marines from the battalion.
“The people of Iraq want to see their army patrolling and providing for them,” Hussein said. “It is a good that we are now doing this.”
Recruiting drives, training and combined patrols have prepared the Iraqis for the transition. The constant presence of Iraqi forces will allow the people to see the Iraqis in charge of providing security.
“This is what the people want to see,” Hussein explained. “They are appreciative of what the Marines have done for them here, but they are ready to see their own army in control – to see us protecting them.”
The battalion is proud of the progress made during the deployment, especially this most recent development.
“This is what we came here to do,” Jones said. “We came to work ourselves out of a job. I think we have done a good job of doing that.”