UM AL WAZZ, Iraq --
UM AL WAZZ, Iraq – Western al-Anbar province was one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq in recent years, and Marine units operating there have encountered threats ranging from improvised explosive devices to small-arms firefights.
Delta Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance, 2nd LAR Bn., Regimental Combat Team 5 has come across a different threat, however: oil smuggling.
“It’s been passed down from the regiment that there is a threat of insurgents utilizing oil smuggling to transport and fund their operations,” said Capt. Joseph C. Maher, 28, company commander of Delta Co. and an Omaha, Neb., native. “These towns are like home ground for smuggling, and we’re here to ensure it stops.”
The company visited the towns of Um Al Wazz and Midham to search the area and question the citizens for any suspicious activity or knowledge of smuggling. The Marines cordoned off the whole area, ensuring a thorough search.
“Most people in Iraq want to live their lives in a safe and secure environment, and if the enemy elements are invading the town, the (residents) are in danger,” said Staff Sgt. Justin M. Cuomo, a scout squad leader with Delta Co. “Stopping them prevents them from harming an isolated village.”
During the operation, the Marines detained one suspected smuggler and more than four trucks, putting a damper on their operations and profits. The mission lasted approximately two days and consisted of clearing two towns and gathering knowledge.
“When we put a dent in the oil smuggling and insurgency operations, we thereby lay a dent in al-Qaeda of Iraq,” said Lance Cpl. Scott J. A. Baish, 23, a scout from Hagerstown, Md., with Delta Co. “Denying al-Qaeda access to the town will take away the opposition of the city’s government and make it more effective.”
The Marines will continue these operations with visits to other towns around the area of western al-Anbar province. Delta Co. is determined to find all threats, and say they won’t rest until they are neutralized.
“It’s a great thing to be on the ground actively pursuing criminals, taking away the safe havens from these people,” said Cuomo, 33, from Woodbridge, Va. “We’re here to intimidate those who intimidate others and help innocent people live their lives safely.”