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Marines keep presence in Al Kharma

4 Aug 2004 | Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment are making it known.  Marines aren't leaving any time soon.

Marines continue the daily work of moving through the city on foot.  They want to be seen.  They want the enemy to know they're in the city.  They also want them to know that there's no room for terrorists.

"These are presence patrols, but most importantly we talk to people, or at least try to, to find out who likes us and who doesn't," said Sgt. Felix Garcia, a 30-year-old from Brownsville, Texas.  "Most of them are happy we're here, but there's quite a few who want us to leave."

The Marines often find themselves walking through bustling streets and people traffic, a situation that keeps Marines on a constant alert, according to Garcia.

"We have to be careful because there's always somebody out there who wants to hurt us," said Pfc. Alejandro Rodriguez, an 18-year-old Los Angeles.

Changes don't come easily here.  Al Kharma is a small city near Fallujah and some of the sentiments of the larger city spill over.  Still there is progress.

Iraqis have gradually become more receptive.  Scowls and sneers are giving way to waves and smiles, or at the very least, tolerance for Marines.

"Now we briefly joke around with the older males and they allow the children to interact with us as we walk by," Garcia said. "I think it's just a sign of trust."

Marines know that things here won't change overnight.  There will still be crime.  Corruption is rampant and not going away any time soon.  But every step forward by the Marines is a step in the right direction.  Every time they walk the streets, citizens here are reminded Marines are sticking around to make sure the job is done.

"We hand out flyers to remind them we plan on being here for a while and to not fear anyone," Garcia said.  "We're here to take care of them."