CAMP HURRICANE POINT, Ar Ramadi, Iraq -- The commander of U.S. Marine Forces Central Command visited here during his tour of the areas' Marine camps.
Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson met with Lt. Col. Eric M. Smith, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and other Marines of the infantry battalion's command element in the Command Operations Center conference room. Nine enlisted Marines and one Navy corpsman also had the honor of attending and meeting General Gregson.
Smith showed General Gregson 1st Battalion, 5th Marines' area of operations on a large-scale map in the COC and explained his units' mission.
The 39-year-old Plano, Texas native explained the battalion is focusing heavily on working entry control points with Iraqi Security Force Commandos in an effort to stop insurgents from bringing weapons and explosive materials, which are used to make improvised explosive devices, into the city. Patrolling in and around city's busy marketplace and interacting with the general populace is a big part of their mission as well, he continued.
Smith informed General Gregson that improvements are being made in the Iraqi's quest for a sovereign way of life and democratic government.
Last week, elected officials of the Al Anbar Provincial Council met at the Ar Ramadi Provincial Capital Building for the first time to begin establishing democracy in their part of the country. Marines and ISF Commandos patrolled the immediate area to ensure the meeting went safely.
According to Smith the ISF Commandos are having a positive impact on the Iraqis. "They are proud to have an Iraqi solution to their (terrorist) problem."
Smith said he is also seeing positive indicators that the Iraqis are feeling safe due to the Marines' and Commandos' efforts.
"The children are out on the streets, shops are remaining open when we patrol through the marketplace and other patrol areas," he explained. "We heard from one woman that she was able to visit the market twice in one week, which she said she hasn't been able to do for a long time."
General Gregson talked about the battalion's escalation of force procedures at the ECPs and offered guidance on the subject.
He said to remain level headed but not to be hesitant because doing so could cost lives. Every vehicle represents some sort of a threat, he added.
Speaking directly to the nine Marines and Navy corpsman, General Gregson said he was proud of the way the Marines are performing on the new urban battlefield. He also said the Marines of today are capable professionals fighting in a tough environment.
"What you have done is extraordinary."
He added the discipline and dedication the Marines have demonstrated is why they have had success in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The meeting ended with General Gregson shaking hands with everyone present.
"It was definitely good for us to sit in on the meeting because it gave us a better grasp of what's going on in the war," said. Cpl. Dan L. Grabinski, legal clerk, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. "It was interesting listening to what the general had to say. It let me know what's going on around us and why we are doing certain things," continued the Twenty-year-old Schiller Park, Ill., native