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‘America’s Battalion’ disrupts insurgent activity one vehicle at a time

21 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment are clamping down on insurgents moving in their area.

Marines from Weapons Company conducted vehicle checkpoints in Gharmah to deter insurgent activity. The goal was to catch insurgents transporting weapons or materials used to make improvised explosive devices.

“Checkpoints disrupt terrorists’ activities,” said Pfc. Aubrey O. Paul, a 23-year-old machine gunner from Morristown, N.J. “If we are on a route a lot, it forces them to go somewhere else.”

Marines drove through the streets of their area of operations searching for an area to conduct their checkpoints. They chose a location at random to keep insurgents guessing, but one that still had good cover for Marines, said Cpl. David A. Hughes, a vehicle commander.

Marines set up security as soon as the location was found. Marines in humvees with machine guns mounted on top provided security from every direction, while Marines put up stop signs, spike strips and concertina wire. No one was getting through without permission. Each obstacle served as a protective measure in the VCPs for Marines and Iraqi drivers.

With the checkpoint established, Iraqis in their vehicles were instructed to enter and the searches began.

“We look for anything out of the ordinary,” said Lance Cpl. Gregory Beaurun, a 19-year-old mortarman from Brooklyn, N.Y. “We want to catch insurgents before they attack anyone.”

Marines inspecting the vehicles looked under hoods, in trunks and in the vehicles themselves. They lay on their backs to see under the vehicle, climbed into truck cabs to search inside and scaled up ladders to inspect trucks’ loads. Top to bottom, front to end, every crack in the vehicle was inspected. All locked items were opened and inspected and notes in the vehicle were all checked. Nothing was left unsearched.

Car owners were searched and questioned with the help of an interpreter. Everyone who went through the checkpoint showed their identification and answered questions about insurgent activity in the area. 

The only moment that provided excitement was when Marines stopped an Iraqi male without his identification. The situation made Marines suspicious because locals should know not to travel without their ID.

“Most Iraqis know that they need their IDs at all times,” Paul said. “His information was taken, he was questioned and then let go. They didn’t find a reason to detain him.”

Marines didn’t catch any insurgents but said the checkpoints are a necessity in this area.

“I feel we’re doing our job,” said Hughes, a 25-year-old from Decatur, Ala. “We’re not going to catch someone every time, but it helps break up terrorist activities.”