Charlie 1/5 has a night on the town

28 Mar 2005 | Cpl. Tom Sloan

Bellows from the 7-ton's diesel exhaust echoed off of brick buildings lining the narrow streets. Corporal James P. Kohler Jr. and his fellow squad members sit cramped in the big rig's bed singing halfhearted Marine Corps' cadences trying to relieve nervous tension as they traveled to their destination. It was late; close to 10 p.m. They knew nothing good was out at that hour and that is why they're there. The 21-year-old Grandterrace, Calif., native and the other Marines with 2nd Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, spent a night on the town to find out what was going "bump" in night.The platoon conducted a combat patrol in a portion of the city here where Company B Marines manning an observation post reported seeing suspicious activity after curfew hours, which are between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.According to 2nd Platoon's commander, 2nd Lt. Austin P. Adams, reports indicated several groups of four to ten people were going in and out of a house located in a neighborhood between the Euphrates Canal and the city's main road late at night. Their actions suggested they could be insurgents leaving an intelligence house going to execute attacks on U.S. forces, or they could just be innocent Iraqis gathering for a bible study, he said.Kohler, third squad leader for 2nd Platoon, led his Marines through the dimly lit, narrow streets to get better "eyes on" and determine if the groups' intent was hostile. "If they mean to do harm to (coalition forces), then we're going to stop them," the 2001 Colton High School graduate said. While searching for higher ground to use as a lookout, Kohler and his Marines encountered a group of more than 20 Iraqi teenage boys and girls playing a late-night game of soccer beneath a streetlight. Several adults were standing outside their residences, too."There's a lot of people breaking curfew," Kohler said. "They seem harmless, though. They're not doing anything to harm Marines." Kohler explained the Iraqis, while innocent in their actions, are still in the wrong for being out on the streets so late. Until coalition forces rid the city of insurgents and deem it safe, the curfew will be enforced. It's for the Iraqi civilian's safety, he added.Third Squad located a two-story, abandoned building they used as a lookout.Lance Cpl. Bradford L. Dunn, 3rd Squad's squad automatic gunner, breached the building's main door with a right kick and headed to the roof where the twenty-year-old Covington, Ky., native and his fellow Marines set up an over watch.The location was ideal for monitoring the area where the groups had been meeting, according to Lance Cpl. Eric Aguilar, 3rd Squad's grenadier.The house is empty and is higher than the others around it," said the 22-year-old from Ganado, Texas. "It has good concealment, too. If there're insurgents in the area, they probably don't know we're here. If they try shooting at the (observation post) over there, we'll see them and take them out."Aguilar and the other Marines with 3rd Squad remained on the building's roof for more than an hour monitoring everything that happened while the other squads did the same from different buildings.Nothing suspicious happened, and Adams gave the order to leave the area and head back to their base camp, Snake Pit.Marines with 2nd Platoon made the two-mile trip on foot and accomplished their mission without incident."The mission went well," said Kohler, who plans on pursuing a higher education and becoming a history teacher when his enlistment ends in June. "We determined exactly what's going on out there. It's basically some kids and adults breaking curfew, but they don't mean any harm. "The benefit from the patrol tonight is that squads going there in the future will know what to look out for."