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Marines conduct census to weed out insurgents

17 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran

“America’s Battalion” is getting more familiar with the countryside of their area of operations.

Marines from F Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment patrolled through Saqlawiyah get a census of the area, conduct a show of force and gather information on insurgents.

They are serving in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“The census helps us get a feel for the area,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher R. Hipkins, a 22-year-old team leader from Wilmington, Del. “It’s also to see if terrorists are making an impact on the locals.”

Marines performed “knock-and-talks” in the area. They established security around random homes and went to homeowners’ door and knocked.

“The ‘knock-and-talks’ are to see if they can help us,” said Cpl. Daniel J. Kelley, a 25-year-old squad leader from Centerville, Tenn. “It also builds good relations with the locals.”

It was the squad’s first time patrolling the area. They plan to reduce insurgent activity in the area through increased patrolling.

“It keeps the terrorist activity level down,” said Cpl. Mel G. Garling, a 22-year-old team leader from Canandaigua, N.Y. “It also lets the locals know that we are here to protect them.”

Marines said good relations with the people assists them in the search for insurgents in the neighborhood.

“Their confidence in us has grown,” Kelley said. “The chances of them helping us have increased.”

Air support flew over head while the Marines patrolled. It was a message to insurgents that Marines were moving into the area. The helicopters flew several low passes, the pounding of the rotors vibrating through the area.

Kelley asked the homeowners the number of people who were living with them and if they knew of any insurgents in the area.  House-by-house, Marines completed their census.

Explosions thundered in the distance as Marines were nearing the end of their mission.  It set nerves on edge.

“At first I didn’t know if it was an improvised explosive device or counter-artillery fire,” Hipkins said. “It turned out to be the post being mortared.”

The patrol finished without any threatening incidents and the mission was accomplished.

“We had the opportunity to show our capabilities to the area,” Kelley said. “It was our first time in the area and we made good relations with the locals.”