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Marines working to defeat the enemy one leaflet at a time

1 Aug 2004 | Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

A group of artillery Marines took a different approach to targeting for their deployment to Iraq.  They're more into handing out leaflets than delivering earth-shattering barrages of firepower.

The small group of Marines formed up the Information Operations Cell, from Regimental Combat Team 7's former fire support control center.  Their mission now deals with dispelling half-truths and lies spread by terrorists and spread the word about blossoming opportunities for citizens of Al Anbar Province.

"We distribute information to the Iraqis," said Gunnery Sgt. David E. Lee, 29, Information Operations chief from Lodi, Calif.  "We simply give them the truth."

The team is quick to respond to any attacks, distributing fliers and posters to the battalions to pass out to the locals, according to Lance Cpl. William T. Titus, 20, an IO clerk from Nashville, Tenn.

"The most difficult thing is getting the posters, hand bills and magazines to the battalions," Titus explained.  "When something happens, we try and have something out within 24 hours."

Lee said he believes he and his Marines were chosen to become IO Marines because artillery isn't in great demand during this year's deployment to Iraq.  Closer to the truth, though, is their ability to adjust to changing missions rapidly. 

"We're smart," Lee said.  "We're used to finding ways to distribute information.  The only difference now, is we're doing it to help people rather than kill them."

The unit is new to the Marine Corps.  Coming to Iraq, many of the Marines didn't know what to expect.  Only two of the more than a dozen Marines attended a two-week course to help give them a better understanding of their task.

Lee said one of the team's biggest challenges has been their ability to craft a standard operating procedure.  Most of what they're doing is new to the Corps and what they do know now, might not apply to next week's situation.

"It's continually changing as we learn more," he added.

The Marines however have been successful in educating the local civilians on what really happens.

"It's important to get the information out to the people," said Staff Sgt. James W. Bellows, 26, an assistant chief from Riverside, Calif.  "When we raid a house or something and take someone into custody, that guy knows what he did, but the guy down the street may not know.  So it's important we inform them."

It's not easy to quantify how much effect the IO Marines have made in the region.  Intelligence or tips being reported may have come from a leaflet they produced or simply because of a local citizen's frustration with warring terrorists on his property. 

But there are incremental changes.  Local newspapers are springing up in the area.  Iraqis are discussing the coming elections and the impact they will have on their own future.  Every time Iraqi Security Forces perform their mission, the IO Marines are there to remind the citizens it was their own force protecting them.

"We know what we do helps," Bellows said.  "People at home don't see the good things we do over here, but we see it everyday.  Knowing we're making a difference feels good."