RAWAH, Iraq --
Members of 3rd Squad, Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5 recently completed an assignment maintaining security on the southernmost traffic control point near Rawah, Iraq.
The squad of Marines, most of whom are not infantry Marines by trade, tackled the most isolated part of PRP-3’s mission by covering the security overwatch for Traffic Control Point 4, perched high atop the south bank of the Euphrates River in western al-Anbar province, Iraq.
While TCP-4 is smaller than TCP-3, where other squads from the platoon secured the north bank and the urban areas of Rawah, the Marines with 3rd Squad were glad to be given the opportunity to shine in accomplishing their mission as a small unit.
“It went pretty well,” said Sgt. Rene Gonzalez, a field radioman and squad leader for 3rd Squad. “The TCP ran (smooth), and the Marines’ morale was high.”
“The Marines were excited going into the PRP assignment,” said Staff Sgt. Iva Jones, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of TCP-4 with PRP-3 and a wire chief with RCT-5. “They were pretty motivated to get off of Al Asad (Air Base) and get to an operational situation.”
The Marines took control of two TCPs from a platoon belonging to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment in October. The Marines with 3rd Squad fell right into their rotation of posts and patrols, and each man had to learn the various tasks that were incumbent to the post.
“Everybody had to know every post and how to work the (electronic surveillance equipment),” said Gonzalez, 26, from El Paso, Texas. “We would rotate so that the Marines wouldn’t get bored or complacent.”
The Marines also monitored the progress of the Iraqi Police at the checkpoint and noticed marked improvements, giving the Marines confidence that the policemen could handle the TCP duties on their own.
“At first they weren’t doing as well, but they learned what we expected, and they improved,” Gonzalez said. “They became more vigilant with securing the checkpoint and searching vehicles.”
Working independently from other Marine units enhanced the feeling of isolation in the Marines, but it also bolstered positive reactions.
“Working with other Marines besides (infantry), I was surprised I got along with them so well,” said Lance Cpl. Jody Walters, 26, an infantryman with PRP-3 from Indianapolis. “The camaraderie was there. We didn’t know each other at first, but in the end I got some good friends out of the experience.”
“We were a tight-knit little family,” Jones agreed. “As a stand-alone post, everybody had to work together, and we came together as a team.”
The common hardships they shared – limited supplies, no hot water showers, pest infestations – were overcome by typical Marine ingenuity.
“We were the epitome of the Marine Corps; we did the most with the least,” said Jones, 29, from Hardin, Texas. “The Marines had to improvise to build what wasn’t provided for us. We accomplished the mission effectively with the least amount of gear. Everybody did their job, which gave the Iraqi policemen the ability to build up their posts and take over the security of the TCPs.”