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Lance Cpl. Steve Smith, a supply warehouseman with Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5, keeps security while other Marines clear a house in Rawah, Iraq, Dec. 4. Smith and PRP-3 recently completed a two-month assignment as security for Traffic Control Points 3 and 4, which are on the Rawah Bridge.

Photo by Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

Platoon completes security mission in Rawah, Iraq

14 Dec 2008 | Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

Marines from Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5 completed a two-month security mission at Traffic Control Points 3 and 4 here Dec. 9.

The PRP-3 Marines turned the control of the TCPs over to a platoon from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

“This was a great opportunity for the Marines, including myself,” said 2ndLt. Randall Blowers, 25, platoon commander for PRP-3 from Vernon, Conn. “Overall, I think the platoon did very well, and now 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines will do well.”

The Marines of PRP-3, most of whom are not infantry Marines, conducted more than 120 security patrols throughout Rawah, and they operated in overwatch for Iraqi Police monitoring traffic on the Rawah Bridge, which crosses the Euphrates River.

“I had fun going out on foot patrols through the city and seeing the children and meeting the people,” said Cpl. Travis Silhan, 20, a Marine Air Ground Task Force planner with PRP-3 from Houston. “It was interesting walking through the city and seeing the houses being built and seeing how the people act around us.”

Silhan was also a member of PRP-1, which mostly performed mounted patrols in the desert of western al Anbar province. Comparatively, the operations of PRP-3 were more geared toward dismounted patrols and area security, and Silhan and the other Marines said they appreciated getting outside the concrete walls of TCP-3.

“It was always a nice change of scenery, being in town,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Schur, 25, a switchboard operator with PRP-3 from Mission Viejo, Calif. “I was hoping to be involved with a lot of patrols and convoys, so I was excited when I got to be part of this PRP.”

The Marines were in over watch for the TCPs, which meant essentially that they were providing the security element for the Iraqi Police at the checkpoints so the policemen could concentrate on practicing their jobs.

“Transition is the mission,” Blowers said. “The intent from the beginning was to turn Iraq back over to the Iraqis, and PRP-3 was like a microcosm of our mission in Iraq.  When we first got to the TCPs, we had to ‘hold (the policemen’s) hands’ a little bit at first, but they started to make a lot of progress.

“The Iraqis have a lot of challenges ahead, and most of the burden is now on their shoulders because they should be able to handle it,” Blowers added. “Some of the (Iraqi policemen) really earned my respect. The neighbors in the area commented that they trusted the IP a lot more after we arrived.”

The neighbors also trusted the PRP-3 Marines, as they welcomed the platoon members into their homes for meals and conversation.

“I was really excited about the opportunity to see how Iraqi people live,” said Schur, who was among the Marines who dined with Yasir Humady Khatlan on the eve of Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s important celebrations, the Feast of Sacrifice. “I was eager to taste their food – which was excellent – and to just be within their presence.”

“It is an honor and a privilege to invite you to my home,” Yasir said, through an interpreter, as he bade farewell to his neighbors from PRP-3. “I am proud to provide hospitality to the Marines, and I want people to know this is how Iraq is now.  We make good connections and friendships with people from other countries.”

The Marines, especially those who hadn’t previously ventured “outside the wire” for an extended amount of time, learned a lot about Iraqis, about military operations in urban terrain and about themselves.

“I’m used to leading Marines from my own military occupational specialty,” said Sgt. Rene Gonzalez, 26, a squad leader with PRP-3 and a radio chief with RCT-5 from El Paso, Texas. “This was leading Marines from a lot of different backgrounds, and this was a different type of environment for me.”

“I learned a lot from the infantry Marines,” said Schur, who normally works with communications equipment. “I didn’t really know what to expect from the PRP mission, but I feel really lucky to be part of that experience. I’m thankful for it, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

The PRP-3 leaders recognized and are grateful for the contributions of every member of the platoon.

“I could go through the roster and think of at least one outstanding thing each individual Marine did out there,” Blowers said. “I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to lead this platoon. The conduct of the Marines was exemplary. I couldn’t be more proud of everybody in the platoon.”