Photo Information

Cpl. Matt D. McGee, 21, of Baldwin, Wis., and scout team leader, 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, directs his Marines during house-clearing operations in southern Iraq today. Company A of 1st LAR, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., has been sweeping areas which, to this point, have seen little or no coalition presence to date. The sweeps by Apache, as Company A is known, has netted several detainees as well as rocket-propelled grenades, rifles and other items used by insurgents and other criminals in this region.

Photo by Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

Baldwin, Wis., native works alongside Iraqi troops

14 Jan 2006 | Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard

The last time Corporal Matt D. McGee was deployed to Iraq he was responsible for finding and destroying the enemy and maintaining his personal weapon and light armored vehicle.

This time the 21-year-old scout team leader with Company A, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion has those responsibilities, but he is also responsible for mentoring and providing an example for Iraqi troops.

It’s not as simple as it may sound. There is a significant language barrier even though Iraqi and American warriors are slowly learning enough of each other’s language to communicate. Still, most communication is done through hand-and-arm signals or an interpreter.

In addition, an American commander would define a “professional soldier” differently than an Iraqi.

But to this a Baldwin, Wis., native and 2002 graduate of Baldwin-Woodville High School, that is changing.

“We work with the Iraqis about once every two weeks,” he said.

Today, McGee and fellow Marines from 3rd Platoon and Iraqi Army soldiers are rolling through Al Tamal, a small community of shepherds in western Iraq. The patrol, which is a combined show of force and a security sweep through an area not seen much by Coalition Forces, is in the area due to reports of heavy insurgent and criminal activities, such as smuggling.

McGee and his team ride over the expanses of desert between each house, dismounting to approach each objective and clear the structures there.

Entering a house is extremely dangerous, especially when the Iraqi soldiers going into the same house through another door don’t speak your language. But McGee isn’t concerned about this.

“At first, I was a little hesitant about them stacking up on the same house I was, but I’m really impressed with this group,” he said. “They’re starting to do the right things automatically now, and they are technically proficient.”

Once he leaves Iraq, McGee is confident the Iraqi soldiers will be well-equipped to continue taking the fight to the enemy.

“They have lots of intensity, they’re organized, intelligent and seem honest,” he said.