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Lance Cpl. Jonathan Higgins, 21, a scout with Alpha Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, searches an abandoned house for weapons caches during a patrol through the desert of western al-Anbar province, Iraq, Sept. 3. The western al-Anbar province has changed for the better since Marines of Alpha Co. have arrived in Iraq. The caches found have lowered, the oil smuggling has decreased and the people have felt safer because of it.::r::::n::

Photo by Cpl. Ryan Tomlinson

Marines witnesses change

7 Sep 2008 | Cpl. Ryan Tomlinson

A steady change has been happening throughout western al-Anbar province, Iraq. According to Marines with Alpha Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, it has been a noticeable and welcome change in there area of operations.

“Traditionally, our area was the place known for insurgents to traffic freely to transport weapons, facilitate foreign fighters and smuggle oil pipelines,” said 1st Lt. James R. Armstrong, a platoon commander with Alpha Co. “Since (Alpha Co.) assumed this area of operations, all the traffic has been trucks importing and exporting goods to help Iraq get on it’s feet.” 

In the beginning of 2nd LAR Bn.’s deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, they assumed control of a large portion of western al-Anbar province. Alpha Co. has since passed over highway responsibilities to the Iraqi Highway Patrol, allowing the Marines to focus on the open desert. The company has also turned over a part of their battle space to 3rd Battalion, 29th Iraqi Army Brigade.

“We’ve been assisting the IHP with security by using the abilities of the light armored vehicle in the desert,” said Armstrong, 24, from Johnson City, Tenn. “(We) accomplish more that way. They focus on the highways and engage with the people while we focus on less patrolled areas.”

The western al-Anbar province has changed for the better says Marines of Alpha Co. The caches found have lowered, the oil smuggling has decreased and the people have felt safer because of it.

“It’s a sense of accomplishment knowing that (Coalition forces) and the IHP have made a difference for the people. You could physically see it,” said Cpl. Christopher J. Swist, 23, a scout team leader with Alpha Co. from West Melbourne, Fla. “The people welcome you and we’re watching the country change for the better even though it’s a small amount at a time.”

Now that the company has been focusing on the desert, smuggling and other insurgent activity is increasingly being extinguished.

“It’s been nice to see the change in front of your eyes,” said Lance Cpl. Chad Williams, 21, a scout with Alpha Co. from Stanley, N.C.


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