COMBAT OUTPOST RUTBAH, Iraq --
Marines from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, conducted “atmospherics” on a security patrol in Rutbah, Dec. 29, in conjunction with their Iraqi Police counterparts.
The goal of an atmospherics patrol is to assess living conditions for the average Iraqi citizen and to show a security presence in the city.
The patrol was led by Sgt. Daniel Giere, 23, a squad leader with 4th Platoon, Echo Co., from Exton, Pa. A carpenter in civilian life, this is Giere’s second tour in Iraq as a Reserve Marine, his first being with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment in Fallujah, during more turbulent days in 2006.
The Marines of 4th Plt., Echo Co., are currently attached to Tango Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, an artillery unit which deployed here in October from their home base at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Giere explained that by finding out about specific unemployment issues and problems with essential services – such as water and electricity – in different parts of the city during the atmospherics patrols, the unit can gain important information which they can pass to the Rutbah City Council to address.
In this way, the Marines can mentor and empower the local Iraqi government, thereby enhancing the quality of life for the city’s 20,000 residents, while setting the wheels in motion for complete Iraqi governance in the area.
“It’s a presence patrol,” said Giere. “It is also a ‘meet and greet’ to let the locals know we’re here to establish rapport.”
One of the citizens that Giere interviewed was Abdel Salam Fakaj, 50, a Rutbah resident.
When asked about changes in the population, Fakaj said that many people in Rutbah have been returning to their homes in Fallujah and Ramadi, two of the largest population centers in al-Anbar province, where thousands had fled in 2003-2005 because of heavy fighting between Coalition Forces and insurgents.
Because the security situation throughout western al-Anbar province has improved tremendously over the past year, life for citizens throughout the province is returning to a sense of normalcy.
Fakaj said that although he does have some faith in the local elected leaders, he has more confidence in the Marine units to respond to issues such as electrical outages and water services.
The Marines, however, are working to change this paradigm and improve the credibility of Iraqi leadership. This is especially important in light of the planned draw-down of U.S. forces in Iraq over the next two years.
In accordance with the current strategic plan, all Coalition patrols in Rutbah are now done jointly with Iraqi police.
As the patrol neared the end of its route, the Iraqi police officers were particularly helpful.
“The IPs, they did very well tonight,” said Giere. “They showed good judgment, especially with the time of day. Sunset is always the worst, as visibility is really low.”
The patrol also stopped to talk to an adolescent boy, who had greeted the Marines in English. The boy showed them his English language textbook, explaining that he had learned his foreign language skills in high school.
In addition to greeting nearly everyone they passed in rudimentary Arabic, the Marines also gave out candy and kicked around a soccer ball with some of the younger children they encountered.
“I think Rutbah was a really good town long before we got here,” said Giere. “There was never very much of an insurgency here in comparison to Ramadi, Fallujah and Haditha. The people here want peace, plain and simple.
“I’ve asked them if they want us here. You get a generic answer, and people usually say ‘yes,’” Giere continued. “But every now and then you get a straight shooter why says, ‘thanks for everything you’ve done, but now it’s time for you to go home.’ I don’t see anything wrong with that. We’ve been here for a long time, and we’ve done a lot of good.”