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SADAMIYAH PENINSULA, Iraq (August 14, 2008) – An Iraqi soldier with Iraq’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraq Army Division, talks with local fishermen as he patrols through a fish market Aug. 15, during a 72-hour Iraqi-led sweep operation. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Schmidt)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Schmidt

One step closer to transition

14 Aug 2008 | Lance Cpl. Scott Schmidt

SADAMIYAH PENINSULA, Iraq (August 14, 2008) – Just one year ago al Qaeda in Iraq terrorized the Sadamiyah Peninsula almost daily, but as the Iraqi Army and Coalition forces have increased their presence in the area terrorists have either given up or have been neutralized.

Iraqi soldiers with 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, took another step toward full control of security in the area after successfully completing Operation Sledgehammer Aug. 14 through 16.

At the request of Iraqi leaders, Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, provided assistance for the Iraqi-led, 72-hour sweeping operation throughout the peninsula

The Marines and IA denied insurgent mobility in the area by actively engaging the local populous, and making deliberate and precise sweeps in areas known for insurgent activity. The offensive nature of the operation is one Iraqis said they are not used to, but one in which they are becoming increasingly proficient.

“At first our mission was to be defensive. We would wait for terrorists to attack us and then retaliate,” explained Maj. Ayed Mohammed, the executive officer for 1st Battalion. “The Iraqi Army is now on the offensive, which has been directly responsible for many successful missions.”

Iraqi soldiers separated the peninsula into sectors, and with the help of the Marines successfully swept the areas looking for signs of insurgent activity.

Mohammed said interacting with the communities in the peninsula was as important as anything else they achieved during the operation.

“We had multiple successes, one being the trust and confidence the people have in the Iraqi Army,” said Mohammed. “It is important for them to know we are here for them any time they need us.”

Mohammed said his men feel more and more confident after each mission they complete, but they understand they have a long and difficult road ahead as they move toward complete control of security in the area.

“Allowing Iraqis to lead the way is critical to a proper transition of security,” said Sgt. Christian Perry, a 23-year-old squad leader with Company A. “They have the man power, they have the equipment and they are building confidence in themselves.”

Perry, from Owensboro, Ky., noted that more often than not, Iraqis are planning their own operations and no longer are Marines asking Iraqis to shadow them on missions. Instead, Iraqi leaders are now asking if Marines would like to join in support of their operations.

Throughout the operation locals greeted Iraqi soldiers by name, evidence of the Iraqi Army’s resounding ability to achieve the trust of the populous.

“Iraqis must finish what (Coalition forces) started,” said Mohammed. “We will extend our security and reach wherever terrorists are and crush them.”    

Mohammed explained their goal is to return the peninsula to a peaceful state, where farmers are able to tend to fields and fish markets can again flourish without the threat of terrorism. To do this, the area must be safe and in the control of Iraqis and that time is now, he said.