GHARMAH, Iraq -- They keep their eyes peeled- for their safety and the future of Iraq.
The Marines of D Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, are charged with maintaining the security and stability of Gharmah, a farming town on the outskirts of Fallujah. One of their most important jobs is keeping the routes clear of improvised explosive devices.
Finding the roadside bombs comes down to methodically and slowly searching the routes, according to 2nd Lt. Court Rape, a 23-year-old platoon commander in the company.
“We do something a little different every time,” said Rape, from College Station, Texas. “Precision randomness. We get units in places they don’t expect us and we have been successful.”
It’s painstaking work, looking for telltale signs of danger. Sometimes it can just be a gut instinct that things don’t look right – like they did the last time the Marines scoured the road.
Cpl. Paul Kozlowski, a combat engineer attached to 3rd LAR Bn., said Marines “basically sweep off the road,” clearing the route and “keeping a lookout for anything unusual”
“It’s a big team effort,” said Kozlowski, from Bowie, Md.
And it’s paying off.
So far their efforts thwarted the insurgents. Rape’s platoon uncovered five IEDs in the last two weeks, none of which caused any harm to the men seeking out the bombs.
They weren’t always lucky. Shortly after coming from the far western reaches of Iraq to assist Marines with Regimental Combat Team 5, one vehicle was hit by the very type of weapon they’re seeking to root out.
“It was a real eye opener,” said Cpl. Joseph E. Sherwood, a 29-year-old team leader from Orlando, Fla. “We lost our gunner for four days due to a concussion, but it could have been a lot worse.”
Most insurgents attempt to place IEDs at night, under the cover of darkness. They lie in wait to attack passing Marines and Iraqi Security Forces.
“They’re not brazen enough to place the IED during the day,” he said.
Despite those factors, the Marines have detained a few of the IED placers and triggermen. One was a 63-year-old man.
“There is no age limit on the insurgents setting these things off,” Sherwood said.
But, the attacks have been limited since the LAR Marines pulled into town and dedicated themselves to clearing the roads. The Marines are turning up more IEDs and Marines running through their areas are safer for it.
“I would say we have been pretty damn successful,” Kozlowski added. “We’re keeping the Marines who operate out here safe.”