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Marines, Iraqi police patrol Khandari

5 May 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

Iraqi motorists were held up by a line of tan and blue – Marines and Iraqi police – working side by side here recently.

Marines with C Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, combined with Iraqi police conducted anti-insurgent patrols in the Khandari Market May 6.  The Marines are serving in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“We are teaching them techniques and procedures on patrolling in the area,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joshua S. Smith, the 31-year-old platoon commander from Oxnard, Calif. “We took baby steps – simple things like snap vehicle check points.”

Iraqi police took the lead in the operation by inspecting cars and questioning residents.  They provided a general presence in the area to let the people of Khandari know they were there to help.

“This was the first combined patrol we have had with the IPs since the battalion moved in to support the U.S. Army,” Smith said.

The experience level of the Iraqis ranged from senior policemen to recent graduates from the police academy.  Even where experience lacked, though, eagerness filled the gaps.  Overall the Iraqi police performed well, Smith said.

“It was good to see them in the area,” said Pfc. Nick Ransom, a 22-year-old infantryman from Long Beach, Calif. “It really looks like they are moving forward.”

The company’s Marines were impressed to see Iraqi initiative.  Once the day’s plan of attack was laid out, Iraqis in blue moved into position to start the checkpoint.  They wasted no time getting ready to stay for the long haul.

“They had furniture set out,” Ransom said. “That’s when it actually donned on me they are going to do what we do.”

The people of Khandari expressed an interest in seeing their Iraqi police in the area. People came out of their homes and businesses to greet the policemen and to seemingly show support.

“It is good to see our police keeping our towns safe,” said one resident.

Iraqi police greeted the residents with the same concern. They expressed interest in the welfare of the community and its residents.

“We are your brothers,” said Sgt. Maj. Bassam Izware Garede, the Iraqi police commissioner for the Khandari area. “We have come to help.”

“Most of the people we talked to today were pleased to see the IPs working with the Coalition Forces,” Smith said.

That’s a drastic change from what Marines found when they first arrived to assist Army forces less than two months ago.  Then, insurgents maintained a tight grip of fear on the small city.

The Khandari Market was notorious for insurgent activities. The battalion faced strong opposition initially in the area, but has seen a marked improvement in the past few weeks. It’s the result of not just Marine efforts, but also because of stepped up Iraqi police operations.

The Iraqi police performed well and reached every objective set for the day.

“We had great success today,” Smith said. “All of our goals were accomplished.”

“I hope the feelings of the people will change once they see their countrymen stepping up to make their country safe,” said Pfc. Christopher A. Jackson, a 24-year-old infantryman from Paulding, Ohio. “I hope they can create a bond that will eventually allow the Iraqi Army and police to take over the area and do the job.”