CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq -- Regimental Combat Team 7's reserve force added yet another task to its already growing resume in western Iraq.
A platoon-sized force from 7th Marine Regiment's reserve conducted a 50-mile reconnaissance patrol in efforts to find information on those who participated in recent rocket attacks on U.S. forces at Al Asad. The patrol took Marines to several sparsely populated areas just outside the compounds of Al Asad.
"Our primary focus was to gather information on those who may have been involved in the attacks," said 2nd Lt. Daniel F. O'Brien, platoon commander for 3rd Platoon, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, part of the Regimental Reserve. "But we were also out there to show ourselves and interact with the locals. We wanted to see what some of their concerns were, so that possibly later on down the road we could help them fix it."
The reserve was also out there to familiarize themselves with the terrain, look for possible trouble spots, uncover potential weapons cache sites and assure the locals that recent operations by the Marines were not aimed towards them.
Marines, along with an Army Psychological Operations unit, passed out flyers and handed Iraqis "Freedom Magazine," a publication aimed towards educating the locals on why U.S. military forces are here and what they've been doing to help the country.
"This is a pretty good thing to do," said Lance Cpl. Patrick Wilkinson, a machine gunner with the platoon from of Plain, Wis. "Getting out here and meeting the locals, it gives us a feel for our (area of operation)."
The six-hour patrol created quite a stir at a local primary school when the Marines stopped by to see if any future help could be provided.
Nearly 75 students and seven teachers talked about the lack of drinking water and the difficult walk to and from school for many students, some traveling as far as five kilometers. The students said they wanted new soccer balls while Marines and soldiers questioned them about their future plans and what they wanted to become when they got older. Many of them dreamed of becoming teachers or doctors.
"It's just good to come out and talk to these guys," said Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson, a PsyOps team leader from North Carolina.
The patrol, despite being the first of its kind conducted by the reserve team, was an absolute success according to O'Brien.
"Nothing really went wrong," he said. "That's pretty amazing considering this was our first patrol."
O'Brien said his team located several possible weapons caches and were able to identify many problem spots. He also said coming upon the school was a pleasant surprise.
"Overall it was a pretty good day," he said. "We were able to accomplish our mission. We filled in the gaps the battalions didn't have time for and soon there won't be any place for the bad guys to hide."