Featured News

Marines transition from fight to reaching out to Iraqi citizens

4 May 2004 | Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

Marines repositioned forces in Fallujah this week, pulling back to the outskirts of the city.  The move coincided with the formation of the 1st Battalion of the Fallujah Brigade, a new Iraqi force expected to be composed of former elements of the Iraqi army.

The new force will be led by Iraqi Maj. Gen. Mohammed Latif, a former Iraqi army commander who replaced Maj. Gen. Mohamed Jasim Saleh, a former Iraqi Republican Guard division commander. 

Iraqi forces are already taking up key positions to secure and stabilize the restive city, positioned that days ago were occupied by Marines.

"Initially it appears that the transition...is working," said Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, commanding officer for 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment told reporters in Fallujah. "It's a delicate situation. (It) is the Iraqi solution we've all been looking for in this area."

Lt. Gen. James T. Conway countered critics that the repositioning of Marine forces was a withdrawal or retreat.

"Let me tell you that both of those are dirty words in the vocabulary of a Marine - and nothing could be further from the truth," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Marines in the 1st Marine Division already transitioned on their two-track approach in Iraq from the "no worse enemy" back to "no better friend."

Lt. Col. Paul J. Kennedy, commanding officer for 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment met with 51 Imams and other influential leaders in Ramadi to propose a plan to repair mosques.  Kennedy's Marines saw some of the heaviest fighting in Iraq in early April fighting terrorists.  The offer came with a reminder that Marines respect the Islamic culture and the proposal was a gesture of Marine goodwill.

The proposal would allocate $1,200 in repairs and renovations for each mosque and employ ten people at each of the mosques for about two weeks to make the repairs.

Marines also delivered oversaw the delivery of air conditioners, ceiling fans, refrigerators and desks to a school in Ramadi.  The supplies were bought for the school to alleviate the summer heat for school children.

Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division, assigned to 1st Marine Division, met with sheiks in Khalidiyah to initiate a $21,000 road improvement project.  Soldiers near that city already tuned over protection of key sites to the Iraq Facilities Protection Service, which has already identified improvised explosive devices and increased patrols in the area.

Sgt. Maj. Wayne R. Bell, 1st Marine Division's sergeant major, said he's been nothing less than impressed with the actions of the Marines on the lines, whether fighting the enemy or reaching out to the Iraqi citizens.

"I go around the battlefield and look the Marines in the eye and they tell me this is what they're trained to do," Bell said.  "This division, under the leadership of Maj. Gen. (James N.) Mattis can do anything it is tasked to do.  Although we've gone through a few weeks of heavy fighting, our division motto - no better friend, no worse enemy - remains the same.  We will prevail in Iraq."