AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Marines from 6th Civil Affairs Group and 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment’s recently conducted a presence patrol to survey the Ramadi citizen’s willingness to vote, determine the level of support for the proposed constitution and to see if the local schools needed support.The patrol also provided an opportunity for 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines to gauge the level of support for the newly formed government. The city is considered to be an important area for Coalition Forces due to the large Sunni Muslim population who either refused to vote in the last election or were scared to vote because of insurgent threats.With an increased presence by the Iraqi Security Force, often in tandem with Marine and Coalition Forces, this patrol and others like it allow the Marines to determine the people’s opinion of the city’s stability and safety – and whether they support actions taken by Coalition Forces to eliminate the insurgency.“We do these patrols in order to spread the word of the upcoming elections and to help get the people comfortable with us,” said 2nd Lt. Walter Larisey, 1st Platoon’s commander. “The insurgents are using fear and terror to get people not to vote and support their own government. We are telling the people that we are here to defeat the insurgency so we can leave their country, so they can begin to build their lives.”Marines with Company L, one of the three line companies with the battalion, have participated in these patrols before and understand the importance of getting support from the city’s residents. Many of the Marines are on their second or third tour in Iraq and realize the sooner the Iraqi people are freed from the shadow of insurgents, the sooner the war can wind down. “Units like CAG, who help build schools and power grids, do good things for us and the local populace,” said Larisey. “We can do our job better if we have the locals on our side. (Civil Affairs Group) can do things like put in generators for small businesses and give schools supplies, all of which help defeat the insurgency.”Just because the Marines went out on a friendly operation to talk to the population doesn’t mean they are necessarily out of danger. The insurgents can and will attack anytime, regardless of civilians nearby, said Larisey. While this operation didn’t take hostile fire, ensuring the Marine’s safety is just as important as it is on a combat patrol or a raid on an insurgent stronghold. “We went out in the zone, brought everyone back safely, visited a school, met with a local business owner and found out what they thought about the upcoming election. I would definitely say this was success,” he said. Starting at Company L’s home base, Snake Pit, the patrol made their way to a school and interviewed the vice principal to determine if they needed supplies or help with maintenance.“We spoke with the vice principal,” said Gunnery Sgt. John Satanek, team chief for CAG team 4. “She seemed happy to see us, invited us in and showed us around the school. We saw that this school was in pretty good shape. They already had books and supplies so we moved on.”The school children waved and smiled as the Marines toured the school, and members of the CAG team gave a few lucky children watches. After leaving the school and loading their convoy of humvees, the Marines moved to a local neighborhood to talk with local homeowners. After finding an occupied home, the Marines began knocking on doors.“We stopped and spoke with a homeowner who welcomed us into his home,” said Satanek. “We spoke about security in the area and the quality of life including the availability of electricity and water. We also talked about how he liked the local schools and if he felt they needed help. “He said he was a shop owner and that he felt safe. He also said he appreciated the Marines being around and that he felt we were doing a good job.”The CAG representatives also asked the man if he felt the city was getting better or falling further under insurgent control. He responded quickly with an emphatic no, he felt the situation in the city was getting better everyday, said Lance Cpl. Zack Coward, a member of the CAG team.“During their time in Iraq, both CAG will be conducting numerous patrols such as this to keep in touch with the local population, as well as spread information about what the Coalition is doing to help them take charge of their own city and country. It’s operations like this that build a solid relationship with the community, which is half the battle against the insurgents. Without the local populace’s support, the insurgency will die out and the Iraqi people can begin to govern themselves, something we’ve wanted from the beginning,” said Larisey.