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Marines ripe for mission in lush Euphrates Valley

1 Mar 2006 | Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

Lance Cpl. Jamar D. Brooks walked the palm-shaded groves here and reveled at the stark contrast to he thought he’d live in.  Instead of dry, dusty wind-whipped expanses of deserts, he’s living amongst lush green rural farmlands.

Marines from G Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment operate in villages that line the Euphrates River. Their operations put them in areas vastly different the many of those experienced by other Marines in Iraq, even for those operating with Regimental Combat Team 5. 

“It’s different out here, not at all what I expected when I thought of Iraq,” said Brooks, a 22-year-old squad automatic weapon gunner from Montgomery, Ala. “The vegetation is like back home. I’m from the South, so the animals and vegetation is like what I grew up with.”

The scenery comes with a price, though. Saqlawiyah, where G Company is based is the biggest area of operations in the battalion. A normal patrol can cover 16-20 kilometers said Capt. Gregory J. Wardman, the company commander.

“The very large area of operations means there are a million places to hide a weapons cache,” said Wardman, a 33-year-old from Rogers, Ark. “It also makes it harder to exert influence. You can only control what you see, so anything and everything can go on where you don’t have eyes on”

The size and scope of there area of responsibility hasn’t deterred the Marines, though.  There isn’t a place they don’t go.

“Our AO is definitely bigger than everyone else’s, but we know it like the back of our hand,” Brooks said. “We go on some real long patrols.”

Brooks said patrols push out into the farms and villages at all hours of the day, even during some of the toughest conditions, when “it’s dark and foggy and you can’t see where you are going so you’re stepping through muddy fields.”

The small population is an important factor in conducting operations to defeat the insurgency.

“There’s a smaller population here so you get to recognize people after a while and you can recognize people who don’t belong here,” Wardman said. “Around town, the people are opening up to us. We have been here for a while and we established the rules early with the people. The people see that we take the bad guys away so they are opening up to us more.”

His opinion of the people is shared among the Marines of the company.

“I like the people out here,” said Lance Cpl. Charles W. Segel, a 23-year-old infantryman from Tiverton, R.I.  “We have more time to get to know them.”

Segel said there’s a level of trust that’s grown among the Marines and local Iraqis here.  Marines aren’t as nervous moving through houses and know that the villagers tip them off to trouble.

The large area to cover requires the Marines here to operate more independently.  Marines patrol for days, establishing patrol bases along the way. From there, Marines can push out into the area without linking themselves to a single location.

“Patrol bases have been the measure of success,” Wardman said. “The areas we cover that way are too far to walk to, if you did that you would spend more time walking there and back than you would actually patrolling. If you drive for a patrol you are at more of a risk for improvised explosive devices because there are only so many roads in the area.”

“I like being out here for the extended operations when we are actually in the field,” Segel explained. “But I’m a Marine and naturally I want to be where the action is and that’s in the city. I’m happy here though.”