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Car searches bring safety to Iraqi villages

17 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Marines here don’t care if it’s a Mercedes or a beat-up Opel.  The “Bastards” are kicking the tires and checking under the hood.

The “Betio Bastards” of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment set up vehicle checkpoints to protect Iraqis from insurgents who transport weapons in cars.

“VCPs are important out here because it lets the insurgents know that we’re checking everything,” said Cpl. David M. Frank, a team leader assigned to the company.

The 27-year-old squad leader from Hillsborough, N.J., said the VCPs are saving lives.

They’re also having a noticeable effect.  The battalion has been on the ground a little more than a month and is already seeing their efforts put a dent in insurgent activity.

“We quit getting potshots and mortar attacks in the city,” said Lance Cpl. Dirck H. Moize, a 21-year-old rifleman from Berton, S.C.  He added the local Iraqis are cooperative with Marines at the checkpoints. 

They often comply with Marines’ request even before they direct them.  They open up the cars and step away so Marines can carry out their duties. 

“We don’t have to say nothing to them,” said Cpl. Brandon D. Shreves, a 22-year-old from Harrison, W.Va.

“They know to open their doors, trunk, hood, or whatever so they can go about their day,” Shreves said. “They put up with it because they know that we’re trying to help them out.”

The VCPs put insurgents on the run.  They no longer have free and open access through the village streets.  If they try to move through the area, they risk being caught, which has disrupted their actives. 

“With VCPs they think twice,” Frank said.

It’s because the Marines check two, three times if needed. The checks are proving fruitful.  Large cache finds hidden in vehicles are now rare.  The insurgents have to resort to other means to move their bombs to avoid detection.

“They know we’re out there so it’s harder for them to move from point ‘A’ to ‘B,’” Frank explained.

Marines gain an edge every time Marines make insurgents adjust their tactics.  They expose themselves to other risks.  They do not gain rest and must turn to more complicated and exhaustive measure to avoid capture. 

Still, Marines don’t stop with just checkpoints. 

They patrolled Iraq’s rocky roads from dusk till dawn.  They work the back roads and alleys in the villages and the highways cutting through the region. 

The results, so far, can be measure in more than just weapons confiscated and insurgents captured.  The mood of the locals in the region is changing.  They know there is safety from intimidation with Marines out in force.

“Now kids and adults have been talking to us,” Moize said. “They don’t ask for anything because they’re always being watched.”

Moize said one Iraqi woman ventured forward to speak to Marines, an act that would have been rare in the past.  Now, it’s more common and her comments are being heard more often.

“She did say that she was glad we were here, setting up these VCP’s through the city,” Moize said. “It makes them feel safe.”