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‘Bastards’ keep insurgents out, Iraqis safe

29 Jul 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

There are many things that go bump in the night in Iraq.

So when the bad guys bump, the “Bastards” bump back.

The “Betio Bastards” with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are keeping insurgents out and Iraqis safe by patrolling the streets day or night.

“It gives insurgents less freedom to terrorize innocent people,” said Sgt. Mark S. Barnes, a section leader with Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon, Weapons Company.

The 25-year-old from Paulding, Ohio, said Marines’ being here creates a greater sense of security. It reassures the local citizens that Marines are here watching out for their safety.

The local Iraqis have well-founded concerns. They worry about random mortar attacks and murder-and-intimidation attacks by insurgents. Improvised explosive devices are planted on roadways used by not just Marines, but also by ordinary Iraqis going about their daily business.

Marines do it “so Iraqis can live normal lives and so they don’t have to worry about running inside their houses thinking that insurgents are going to blow them up with an IED,” Barnes said. 

Marines keep the insurgents off balance through foot and vehicle patrols, random identification checks and vehicle control points. Marines here will stop at nothing to deter insurgent activity.

And for what Barnes can see, Iraqis are responding well.

“Us being here really makes them feel at ease,” Barnes said. “Some of them will wave, kids wave and some adults just look, but most of them are still ‘on the fence.’”

Many adults are still concerned about publicly showing cooperation with Marines or any indication among large groups of Iraqis that they support Marines. Privately, they speak to Marines through interpreters.

Marines focus on cultivating their knowledge of who is “pro” and who is “anti” when it comes to their mission in the Iraqi neighborhoods. They also note those fence-sitters, who make up a large portion of the population. It’s those fence-sitters, Barnes explained, whom they want to talk to when they patrol. They want them to understand why Marines are in their villages and what they hope to accomplish alongside the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army. 

“We basically meet the people,” Barnes said. “We get out and shake hands and ask them what they need. We let them know if there’s anything they need, we’re here for them. We’re here to better this country and here to give them the freedom they deserve ... let them know we’re not here to destroy. We’re here to build.”

Although the Iraqis may be delighted when they see the ‘Bastards,’ insurgents think otherwise.

“They don’t like that we’re here,” said Lance Cpl. Eric J. Haight, a machine gunner with CAAT Platoon.

But the 20-year-old from Woodstock, Ga., says that’s how they like it.

“We’re pretty much here to keep them on lockdown – keep them from doing what they’re capable of doing,” Haight said.

The insurgents are very much capable. They’ve carried out attacks against locals and Marines. For the battalion, which has been in the area just a couple weeks, it’s been a crash-course on Iraqi counterinsurgency. The lessons are learned on the streets every day at the business end of insurgent AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and IEDs.

Haight’s section alone has been ambushed three times in the course of three days.

The 19-year-old from Charleston, W.Va., said as soon as his battalion took over from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment last week they were attacked, “with everything from small-arms fire to RPGs to IEDs,” he said.

He thinks it’s just a test.

“We’ll get back on the road,” Wallace said. “That shows insurgents that were not afraid and 3/2 is going to be here for a while.”

He said it’s a difficult task trying to help the good guys and kill the bad guys, but that’s why he inked the dotted line.

“It’s my job and that’s what I signed up to do,” Wallace said.