Marines remove vehicle, leave behind trust

11 Feb 2007 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn

Marines in Habbaniyah recently displayed both their aggressive stance toward insurgents as well as an earnest willingness to work together with the Iraqi people.

While conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, spotted two insurgents laying an improvised explosive device in a field. They quickly engaged the insurgents, killing them both, but leaving their bullet-ridden vehicle behind in the middle of a farmer’s field.

Weeks later, Marines from K Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines arrived and fell in on the same battlespace as their infantry brothers from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines in mid-December. They also inherited the truck. The vehicle posed a dilemma for the locals in the area as the bleak winter days begin to give way to the longer days of spring and planting season. Not only was the vehicle taking up valuable crop space, it was a constant reminder of the brutality of a war with no boundaries.

Removal of the truck also posed a dilemma for Kilo Company: had insurgents turned the hulk into an IED?  The local farmers came to the Kilo Marines with a simple request for help, a request that they could grant with a little support from higher headquarters.

“The people who own the farmland came and asked us to have the vehicle moved,” said Capt. Bradford R. Carr, the commanding officer of K Company.

Before any attempt was made to move the vehicle, Marines from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit made an assessment. As is all too common in Iraq, any innocent-looking object can be, and often is, turned into a bomb. 

“The vehicle had been abandoned for over a month,” said Cpl. Peter R. Hazy, 21, from Winston-Salem, N.C. “We saw (some suspicious items), but it turned out to be nothing.”

After clearing the vehicle, the Marines now had to determine the best way to dispose of it. The location so close to the village residents, as well as being situated on crop soil, limited the Marines’ options; pieces of scrap metal would not help the agricultural situation.  A course of action was swiftly decided on.

“We just towed the truck out of the field to get it out of the way,” said Carr, 36, from Pensacola, Fl. “That way the people can get their field set up.”

While the resolution to this issue may sound like a no brainer, little tasks like this are important toward building cohesion and trust with the Iraqi people. Both are vital keys to victory in counterinsurgency operations like those currently taking place in Al Anbar Province.

“We are making an effort to help the Iraqi people achieve their ultimate goal,” Carr said. “By doing things like this, the people will make that second effort to do things for themselves and join forces with the Iraqi government and Iraqi Security Forces.”

Whether they are killing insurgents by force or winning the loyalty of the people through small acts of stewardship of the land, the Marines know they are doing their part to help the Iraqi people reach that goal.