CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Distinguishing between 'friend' and 'foe' in Iraq can be difficult, but now Marines here have some allies to help recognize and win the trust of those who are willing to be their 'friends,'
With the help of Iraqi Specialized Special Forces, Marines with 4th platoon, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, patrol through the streets in the Nasser Wa Salaam and Al Kharma areas with added intelligence.
Weapons Platoon added a few more riflemen to their ranks to become 4th Platoon. Iraqi SSF accompany the platoon on each operation and patrol, serving as interpreters in addition to operating as members of the unit.
"Many of the Iraqi SSF are war seasoned veterans who know the religion, culture and the streets of Iraq," said Staff Sgt. John T. Norred, platoon sergeant for 4th Platoon.
However, the SSF don't just help the Marines by giving them added man power and a native voice. They help with the locals' acceptance of a military presence.
"When the local people see that the Iraqi SSF are working with the Marines it reassures them that the Marines are trying to aid the country of Iraq," said Norred, 32, a Decatur, Ga., native. "The SSF help with building a trust between Marines and the Iraqi people."
The Marines have realized the importance of building that trust, but in order to win the war on terrorism, they must also get the Iraqi people involved.
"We have to bring pride to the people of Iraq, they have to take pride in cleaning up their own towns, getting the weapons off the streets and becoming a better country," according to Lance Cpl. Michael R. Kissell, 20, a native of Salt Lake City, and a machine gunner with 4th Platoon.
The SSF work alongside Marines in the hopes of earning the trust of the Iraqi people, an ongoing and oftentimes slow process. However, it appears that some members of the younger generation are more willing to accept the Marines' presence.
"The favorite part of my job is dealing with the Iraqi people, especially the children. To see a smile on their face makes you feel like you are accomplishing something," said Sgt. Justin W. Green, 23, a native of Whately, Mass., and a squad leader with 4th Platoon. "Being able to hand out candy and toys to the Iraqi children and assist their families, comforts them as well as us."
The Marines believe the children of Iraq are the ones who will ensure the country's stability and prosperity in the years to come.
"They put a smile on our face and we bring a smile to theirs," said Norred. "But it is bigger than that. Winning the (children) over is paramount to this country's future. They will remember our kindness and they will grow up and say the Americans are good people."