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Marines patrol with Iraqi Army

17 Feb 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

The sight of Marines and Iraqi soldiers patrolling the streets together is becoming more common throughout villages on the outskirts of Fallujah.

A squad from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment conducted joint patrols with soldiers from the Iraqi Army Friday, Feb. 17. 

The battalion is assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A squad of Marines from the battalion’s B Company combined with soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division for the joint operation.  Together, they performed searches of the area for illegal weapons and interviewed local residents gleaning information about insurgent activities.

The Marines’ role was to coach the Iraqi soldiers, or IA’s, for Iraqi Army, as the Marines referred to them.

“Our role as a squad is to aid the IA’s in patrolling the area,” said Cpl. Philip J. Krabbe, a 25-year-old squad leader from Ridgecrest, Calif., who led the Marine squad. “We are here to give advice on the procedures they should take to conduct a patrol correctly and to provide security during the operation.”

Throughout the patrol, Marines and Iraqi soldiers searched for weapons caches, set up a vehicle checkpoint and performed sweeps for improvised explosive devices.  The patrol didn’t turn up any illegal weapons or uncover anyone on a wanted list, but did have lasting effects.

“The day was productive in that we showed a strong Iraqi presence in area,” said 1st Lt. Glenn P. Baker, a 27-year-old from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., serving as B Company's executive officer.

Constant vigilance a sort of mantra among Marines walking miles and searching homes.  Dry holes are expected, but with each hidden weapon they do uncover, they chalk it up as a success.

“The weapons searches we perform are important because if we find the weapons before the insurgents use them, it is less lives that are put at risk; both military and civilian,” said Lance Cpl. Kenneth D. Mayfield, a 20-year-old assaultman from Denver who took part in the patrol.

Mayfield added that vehicle check points – snap VCP’s as Marines call them – were set up to catch insurgents on the move or to look for suspicious people in the area.

“We usually have certain vehicles that we are on the look out for when we go out in an area to patrol,” Mayfield explained.  “If we see vehicles that fit the description or we see vehicles from out of the area, we will check their papers to see if they are who we are looking for.”

Interaction with local citizens was one of the most productive efforts of the day, though.  Information gained from conversations with residents helps both Iraqi soldiers and Marines tighten the noose on insurgents.  Additionally, residents see their own troops taking a lead role in protecting their own country, a source of pride among Iraqis. 

All of the residents questioned were cooperative and seemed to appreciate the military presence in the community, Krabbe said.

“The confidence the IA’s show is great to see,” Mayfield said.  “I was surprised at how much they seemed to have learned and retained from the training they’ve received.”

Krabbe – on his third tour to Iraq – said he’s seeing progress since his previous tour.  The mood is different in the communities and the area of operation as a whole.

“The people in the area seem to accept the IA’s and seem to understand they are here to help,” Krabbe said.

The 1st Battalion Marines will continue to train and work with the Iraqi Army throughout the deployment.  As Iraqi soldiers gain strength and increase their capabilities, Marines plan on turning over more battle space to them in the coming months.

“I am very impressed with the professionalism and abilities of 1/4/1,” Baker said. “And as always the Marines performed like Marines.”