FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Little moonlight shined onto the Marines making their way toward the Andaloos District deep into the city. Only night vision goggles led the way to the first building to be searched.
Marines from C Company and the Personnel Security Detachment, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, cleared and searched hundreds of houses and buildings in their designated section during Operation Matador. The operation was conducted to disrupt insurgents operating in the area.
Armed Marines on the prowl for unaware insurgents lined up outside doors before the sun could begin to appear over the horizon.
“One, two, three … Go! Go! Go!” ordered Sgt. Flavio D. Mendes, a fire team leader with the PSD, from Milford, Mass.
Marines entered the building with quick force, ready for whatever lied in their path. Most of the buildings were occupied by local Fallujans who weren’t expecting guests, much less Marines searching for weapons or signs of enemy activity.
But Marines knew they had to act fast and catch the Iraqis off guard if they wanted to capture anybody who had something to hide. The area they were operating in had been a dangerous one in recent months and they didn’t want to take any chances.
“Sorry to wake you, but we need to conduct a search of your place and then we will be out of your way,” said 25-year-old Mendes to the occupants. “Are their any weapons in the building or anything that we need to be aware of right now?”
Every building, room and rooftop was searched as Marines swept through several blocks in their zone of responsibility.
Hours of searching continued without any friction from people in the area. After many had woken to see the operating forces, they started to trickle out into the streets.
“They were very cooperative, and many of them let us right in to their houses,” said Lance Cpl. Youngjun Choi, from North Babylon, N.Y. “They knew what our intent was, and they understood why we were there.”
“The people were so friendly that I had to keep reminding myself that we were in an area where Marines had been attacked before,” Mendes said.
Adults and children alike stood at the fronts of their homes and watched as the Marines carried out their mission. When the Marines stopped to speak with the homeowners and families, many were offered food and drinks.
“At one house I actually met an Iraqi Policeman and we discussed politics with one another,” said Cpl. Craig A. Washington, a 23-year-old infantryman with C Company, from Springfield, Mass.
Marines didn’t find large weapons caches or enemy personnel fighting against them. What they found instead were Iraqi people interested in their mission and eager to watch their progress.
C Company searched their last group of buildings when they stumbled upon a box of ammunition used in AK-47 assault rifles, a common weapon used by insurgents.
“We were waiting for a few Marines to link up with us when started poking around and found the ammo,” Washington said.
Other than the rounds, the C Company and PSD Marines reported no major concerns or insurgent activity in their area. They spent the rest of their time handing out candy and talking with locals, reassured that the enemy wasn’t operating there today.