IIF, U.S. troops work and search

21 Mar 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar 2nd Marine Division

Underneath the setting Iraqi sun, a group of local soldiers and U.S. Marines peer out from behind fortified bunkers, surveying the wide, desolate street.

Beside them, an Iraqi man in desert fatigues ushers a crowd of women dressed in black garb into a wooden roadside stand, where a female soldier waits to search them.  Elsewhere, two troops inspect a stopped vehicle as another searches the driver.

"The purpose of this ECP (Entry Control Point) is to control foot traffic and cars coming into the city," explained Sgt. Demir Lico, mortar section leader with Weapons Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, as he finished inspecting a car's trunk with an Iraqi soldier.

The 28-year-old Woodstock, Ga. native's unit recently deployed to Iraq to provide security and stability to Fallujah's residents.  As part of this mission, Company C works alongside local Iraqi Security Forces to staff a vehicle and personnel ECP into Northwestern Fallujah.

"We look for everything from weapons to anti-coalition propaganda out here," Lico stated.  "It gets really busy in the morning when people are coming in to go to work.  I'd say on an average day, we get more than 1,000 people to come to this ECP."

Despite the high volume of people attempting to enter Fallujah everyday, he said only city residents, those on official business and students are permitted into the city.  No visitors are allowed inside currently for security reasons. 

"We check for resident identification or some kind of paperwork saying the people are here for business," Lico continued. 

Forms of ID include badges ECP personnel issue, containing a photo, fingerprint and eye scan pattern of the subject. 

According to Lico, a resident possessing one such card can enter the city much quicker than one without it. 

Aside from conducting ID checks, ECP personnel search everyone entering the city for arms, ammunition, and insurgent propaganda, typically video.  People possessing such videos are kept out of Fallujah.

"If we find someone with these tapes, most of the time we'll kick them out," Lico said.

Even though troops search everybody, the ECP staff keeps mindful to respect the locals' rights and privacy.  For example, female Marines and soldiers search Iraqi women and their babies in a secluded facility.

Another asset Company C Marines have in the ECP is the ISF personnel working alongside them.

"Ultimately, we want to give total control to the ISF, so that's why they're integrated into everything we do," Lico explained.  "If the Iraqis see their own people up front instead of an American, they know their country isn't being run by the US."

The ISF also accompanies the Marines on patrol through Fallujah's streets, helping to direct local vehicular traffic and communicate with pedestrians.

"When they (the Iraqi populace) see us intermingle, it shows the people that we're one team."