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Random checks give insurgents another thing to fear

20 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran

Marines here are making it difficult for insurgents to avoid vehicle inspections.

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment’s G Company conducted random vehicle inspections in the streets of Saqlawiyah to catch insurgents trying to transport weapons Aug. 20.

“When we do vehicle checkpoints some vehicles tend to turn around instead of going through the checkpoint,” said Lance Cpl. Howard S. March Jr., a 20-year-old rifleman from Buffalo, N.Y. “When we conduct vehicle inspections randomly it doesn’t give them a chance to avoid the inspections.”

The goal of random vehicle checks is to catch the enemy by surprise. Marines give the insurgents no time to hide anything or to get away.

They made a stop at a gas station that is crowded. Marines walked through the gas lines in search of any suspicious vehicles. They peered into every window and searched some of the vehicles.

The random checks are performed like vehicle checkpoints. Marines took up posts on the outer edges, providing security all around while they conduct the inspections.  Marines checked the vehicle to look for materials that could harm the Coalition Forces.

“We look for anything suspicious,” said Lance Cpl. Wilmer A. Morales, a 20-year-old rifleman from West New York, N.J. “We concentrate on things that look out of place.”

March popped open car trunks and hoods.  He rifled through glove boxes and underneath seats, even checking between seat cushions.  Nothing was left unturned or unchecked.  Each inspection was thorough.  No detail was overlooked.

Marines believe the random checks are more effective than vehicle checkpoints. They also believe that the results they get depend on the situation. Sometimes, they find small clues.  Other times, the actions around them prompt their searches.

Mortar fire erupted in the distance and Marines got into their humvees and raced to the area they saw mortars fired. They searched a number of vehicles looking for any signs of enemy activity.

“After the mortars, we look for artillery rounds or mortar rounds in vehicles,” said Rapavi, a 21-year-old squad leader from Fairfax, Va.. “We hope to find the insurgents trying to escape.”

Nothing was found during the searches. It was a minor disappointment to the otherwise good patrol.

The time and effort put into the random checks is making it hard for insurgents to travel the roads of Saqlawiyah without fear.  Marines know they’re making a difference here.  Their area of operations has been combed over since they arrived more than a month ago.  The random searches allow them to move from one spot to another quickly, keeping up the pressure and the insurgents on the run.

“The searches are important because they maintain us as a presence,” March said. “It lets the insurgents know they can’t do anything in our AO.”