Marines take step toward civility in Ar Ramadi

5 Nov 2005 | Cpl. Shane Suzuki

Marines from 6th Civil Affairs Group, Team 4 and the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment’s guard force conducted a foot patrol through the northern end of Ar Ramadi Nov. 5, to visit local businesses and schools and find out what the Marines here could do to help them.

Although CAG has been patrolling through the city and meeting with community leaders since the end of major combat operations, they only recently felt comfortable conducting civil-military operations without the safety of up-armored humvees and heavy weapons. Usually, CAG is escorted by an infantry platoon to help minimize the chance of an insurgent attack during what would otherwise be a peaceful mission.

While usually successful, the intimidating presence created by a military vehicle often discourages discussion and participation from the population. By going on a foot patrol with a minimum of security Marines, CAG hoped the townspeople would feel comfortable and willing to share information.

“Talking with the people here is the only way we can figure out how to help them,” said Cpl. Robert Shuman, a CAG Marine from Madison, Ga. “We are here to help them, and going out there to meet with them is the only way to find out what they feel about the things that are happening to their city. We haven’t been out in this area of the town before. We want to get out there and meet some families and business owners and make contact with the local leadership.”

The Marines began the patrol by visiting local homeowners, asking them how they feel about the safety of their neighborhoods and the quality of their children’s schools. The difference between conducting a mounted vehicular patrol and a dismounted foot patrol was quickly evident when the Marines approached the first house.

“As soon as we got to the house, children began swarming us,” said Shuman. “And when we asked to go inside the house, the people seemed more responsive and inviting. A lot of times we go on patrols, the homeowners are apprehensive. But this time, they were much more friendlyfriendlier.”

After stopping and speaking with two homeowners about their quality of life, medical care and support for the new Iraqi government, the CAG and guard Marines moved down the streets, noting trash piles and damaged buildings.

“Another thing we do is hire local Iraqi contractors to clean up trash on the side of the road and to help clear old, unlivable buildings,” said Shuman. “We do that for a couple of different reasons. First, insurgents like to hide bombs in the roadside trash. The bigger reason though, is we want the people here to be proud of their city. If we help rebuild nice buildings and parks, and help keep the streets clean, they will be more likely to want to protect their own city.”

After a quick stop at a school and speaking with the groundskeeper there, the patrol made its way to a small bazaar to speak with local business owners about how business has been affected by the war.

“The biggest concern anyone had was about their safety, especially at night,” said Shuman. “The business owners told us they still had steady business, but that they didn’t think people felt safe walking around at night because of the violence.”

When they were finished gathering information from the businessmen, the patrol made their way back to the vehicles and returned to Camp Hurricane Point to discuss how the patrol went and how comfortable the guard Marines were with going outside the base for the first time.

“I think the mission was very successful,” said Shuman. “We got the chance to speak with some local homeowners and businessmen and we were able to bring everyone back safely. Doing foot patrols are a great way to see the city and we were lucky to be able to have the guard Marines come with us. They did a great job.”

With the success of this patrol, CAG and the guard are looking forward to doing similar patrols in different parts of the city. Being able to walk around the city and speak to the residents in a more casual setting is invaluable and, with the help of the guard Marines, should be able to be conducted on a regular basis, he said.