CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Marines in Iraq know their duty here means a fight with no front lines, no clear enemy and one great tool to exercise judgment – the Marines’ mind.
Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment received these rules of engagement from members of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment at the Habbaniyah chapel here July 16.
Marines from the outgoing “Darkhorse” battalion shared experiences with the incoming “Betio Bastards” before the unit took over for their seven-month deployment.
“It’s a different enemy, a different fight and a different war so we need to set the baseline rules,” said Capt. Sean B. Patton, battalion judge advocate for 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
The 31-year-old from Allentown, Pa., offered the brief as a road map of sorts to get the Marines in the mindset of the tough choices they would have to make on when and when not to use deadly force.
Patton covered escalation of force, self-defense, minimizing collateral damage, determining hostile intent, detention operations and rules surrounding mosques.
These considerations play a major role in helping Marines gain favor with the local populace and allow for Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police to defend their country for themselves.
“We need to become more respectful and culturally aware so we can come closer to winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people,” Patton said.
Patton explained to the Marines several gray-area scenarios, all from which came from real experiences on the ground, where an individual Marine’s actions decided the outcome.
The message wasn’t lost on the incoming warriors. A clearer understanding of the ROEs and their impacts on the mission – both positive and negative – gave Marines a greater sense of responsibility.
Learning how to deal with tough situations that often call for life and death decisions was an important lesson, said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony S. Richard, with Headquarters and Service Company.
The 21-year-old hospital corpsman from Miami said the rules are clear on when a it's a justified use of force when engaging the enemy.
However, each combat situation is unique by nature.
“The battalion passed on good information, but it also boils down to using your own judgment,” said Cpl. Kristopher L. Chard, a motor transport operator with H&S Company, who served in Iraq last year.
The 23-year-old from Marlette, Mich., couldn’t have been more in line with Patton.
“It’s true, there’s very little black and white area but there’s a whole lot of gray,” Chard said.
Patton offered words of encouragement before concluding the class.
“It’s a tough job,” he said. “One of the toughest jobs the Marine Corps has taken on. It’s a thinking man’s war, but that is why a professional organization like the Marine Corps was sent to the Al Anbar Province. We can handle it.”