Photo Information

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq - Iraqi soldiers with the Iraqi Security Forces' 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade provide security in a field outside Saqlawiyah May 22. The Iraqi soldiers worked alongside Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment personnel and combat engineers to sweep through numerous farm fields outside Saqlawiyah, looking for hidden weapons caches and insurgent activity.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

ISF, 1/6 sprout new roots outside Saqlawiyah

22 May 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar 2nd Marine Division

The morning sun’s rays had not even touched the farmers’ unadorned concrete houses as a group of figures approached their lands. Lance Cpl. Marc Allison and his fellow Marines moved under the cover of darkness, pushing into the flatlands alongside a group of Iraqi soldiers. After several steps, the 21-year-old rifleman and the troops stop their march through the hip-deep brush and grass. On command, the warriors kneel down and await the morning’s arrival to begin their patrol. Such was the scene during the early morning hours May 22, when Iraqi Security Forces, Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based unit, 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and combat engineers trudged through the farmlands outside Saqlawiyah in search of hidden weapons caches and insurgent activity. “Right now, we’re just sweeping the fields, looking for hidden caches or any person acting suspicious,” stated Allison, a Byhalia, Miss. native. The 2001 Byhalia High School graduate’s unit and ISF personnel conduct these countryside patrols as a part of Operation Badlands, which aims to rid Saqlawiyah, a township outside Fallujah, of insurgents. “As well as patrolling these fields, we’re also working with and teaching the ISF to do the same,” Allison explained. “These fields have basically been untouched, so we’re looking to gather information on where insurgents and weapons might be.” Since his unit arrived in Iraq in mid-March, they have conducted every patrol, raid and humanitarian operation along side the Iraqi soldiers. Badlands is no exception. “We talked to all the people we ran into and asked them what’s going on, or if they knew of any insurgent activity,” Allison said. He added that the Iraqi soldier presence was instrumental during this operation. “The Iraqis have come a long way since we’ve been here, a lot quicker than I thought they would at first. They’ve learned how to patrol, and check every little thing in the road that might seem uncommon. They help us check every garbage can and every hole in the road (for concealed improvised explosive devices).” During today’s operation, ISF personnel helped the Marines communicate with the local citizens they encountered to ask them about insurgent activity and whereabouts. The soldiers also helped Allison’s teammates discover an AK-47 assault rifle and 10 magazines, two of which contained armor piercing rounds, bundled up in a shirt underneath a palm tree. According to 2nd Lt. Jared Towles, Allison’s platoon commander, these are all indicators of insurgent activity. “The only thing AP (armor piercing) rounds are used for is to punch through a (Small Arms Protective Insert armor plate) or light-skinned vehicles,” Towles explained. Even though citizens in Saqlawiyah may legally possess AK-47s, the ISF and Allison’s unit temporarily confiscate the weapons. The troops turn them into Saqlawiyah’s city council after giving the owners a receipt. Residents may then take the receipt to the council to retrieve their weapons. This gives local government leaders the chance to register the weapons’ owners. Additionally, the residents meet their council representatives upon retrieving their rifles. Ultimately, operations like this countryside patrol aim to disrupt terrorist activity in the area. Already, Marines and soldiers on past field patrols have discovered mortar tubes and a rocket. “That time, we were out for about 12 hours, and we were really tired, but it was a good find,” Allison stated. “Now, they (insurgents) can’t use these weapons against us.” Today’s patrol lasted approximately eight hours, during which the troops walked through uneven terrain while enduring 100-plus degree weather. Even though Allison said he knows further challenging missions like these await his unit, he sees the value of performing these operations. “If it wasn’t for us (ISF and Marines), there’d be nobody going through this land inch by inch. The people see that we’re doing this to help them out.”