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Marines comb Iraq’s farmlands for insurgents

30 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Even barnyards don’t provide shelter for insurgents here anymore.

Marines with L Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are combing the countryside looking for insurgents, materials used for making improvised explosive device and weapons caches located in local farmlands.

“It’s mandatory that we sweep these areas so the local populace can live without fear,” said Cpl. Matthew C. Jenkins, a squad leader from L Company.

Before the 21-year-old assaultman from Tallahassee, Fla., and other Marines showed up, Iraqis near here walked on eggshells. They were terrorized by insurgents who used them to hide themselves or their weapons.

“We already confiscated a bolt-action rifle,” said Cpl. Anthony R. Sandoval, a squad leader with L Company. “They’re not supposed to have high-powered bolt-action rifles at all.”

The 22-year-old from Henderson, N.J., said weapon finds don’t usually come easy.  Most searches are sometimes like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The insurgents have no shame hiding amongst dogs, chickens and cows to ambush Marines, he added.

Just two weeks earlier, Sandoval’s company was attacked by IED and small-arms fire from this area.

“That’s when we decided to clear the area,” Sandoval said.

Still, cooperation was sparse.  Many farmers were hesitant to talk to the Marines.

“One man said to me, ‘Why should I say anything you? You were the first Americans I’ve seen in a while,’” Sandoval said.

Now, farmers are beginning to open up to Marines. Their constant patrols are helping to gain the trust of the locals.

“It going to give them a positive outlook on what the military is doing out here,” said Lance Cpl. Jayson P. Richter, a rifleman with L Company. “We’re actually coming up to Iraqis’ houses and doing all we can to help.”

The 19-year-old from Ellsworth, Maine is one of many one who ask the farmers how Marines can be of assistance.

He and others learned Iraqis here live a simple life. All they really want is protection so they can live normal lives raising and providing for their children, Richter said.

Right now, Marines are planting seeds by conducting operations. They hope their frequent patrols will nurture a healthy relationship between them and the Iraqis here. Many Marines are sure their hard work will pay off.

“It’s going to give them a sense of security and help them trust us when we come out here,” Richter said.