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FALLUJAH, Iraq - Lance Cpl. Richard Spillers, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, counts vehicles passing through Entry Control Point-One here Aug. 10. The 20-year-old Fayetteville, N.C. native and his fellow Marines oversee Iraqi policemen with the Public Order Brigade as they search the thousands of automobiles and local citizens entering the city every day for weapons and contraband.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

ECP 1 crew: changing the way they do business

2 Sep 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

It’s hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread, or at least, the Iraqi-Arabic equivalent thereof.After weeks of hard labor, that's what Marines like Lance Cpl. Richard Spillers say how the people of Fallujah and their city council representatives see the newly reconstructed Entry Control Points-One and One A.Since mid-July, this 20-year-old Fayetteville, N.C. native has toiled alongside fellow troops with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and supporting elements, under Iraq's blazing summer temperatures to move concrete road dividers, erect wooden personnel search huts, and stretch hundreds of yards of protective wiring. Now, their hard work has paid off, as Spillers said one of Fallujah's main ingress points is better and safer than ever."People simply don't have to wait as long to get through here anymore," the 2003 Jack Britt High School graduate continued. "I think this ECP is a lot better than the old one."His battalion is currently conducting counter-insurgency operations in and around Fallujah. As part of this mission, Spillers joins hundreds of other Marines and Iraqi Security Forces to man several vehicle and personnel search stations outside the city. Together, the troops ensure no insurgents, weapons or contraband filter into Fallujah.Only residents, students and those conducting official business are currently allowed into the city due to ongoing terrorist activity. Spillers' ECP-One crew admits only government officials and contract workers, and searches approximately 3,000 to 4,000 personnel every day.Marines from the California-based 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment had manned this check station for several months before returning stateside in July. Spillers' battalion assumed control of the ECP on July 14 to immediately start remodeling the layout and improving the surrounding roadways."There's a new military bypass route for our convoys, and we moved the ECP closer to the open fields around us, so the people that had been taking ‘pop shots’ at us before are now in plain view," explained 1st Lt. Eric Tee, ECP-One's officer-in-charge. "The biggest improvement we did, though, was splitting the ECP into "One" and "One A."The Marines redirected all trucks to ECP-One A, where Iraqi forces search approximately 500 to 600 trucks per day. Tee said this traffic split cuts down Iraqi citizens' wait time significantly."Fallujah's city council used to voice a lot of concerns regarding the delays at the ECP," he added. "Now, these concerns have finally fallen off the map."Among the other successes Spillers said the ECP crew enjoys is great cooperation between the Marines and Iraqi forces. The unit's Marines have conducted every operation alongside ISF personnel since arriving here mid-March, but the nature of each other's roles has changed. During the first few months, Marines were at the forefront of every mission, with the Iraqi troops observing and mimicking their Coalition counterparts. Now, Spillers said the Marines merely supervise while the ISF spearhead the daily operations at his ECP."The ISF are a great help out here, because they speak the language and can communicate with the people a lot better than we can," he stated. "They're doing a good job searching these vehicles. A lot of people have gotten out of their cars here to tell us that they like what we're doing to keep terrorists and weapons out of Fallujah."Already, this international cooperation has netted five confirmed insurgents on his battalion's wanted list. The Marines and Iraqi soldiers will continue working to safeguard the city, making the best of their hours spent serving sentry duty."Helping run this ECP has been a great experience for me, because I've gotten to interact with the Iraqi people," Spillers stated. "The ISF are good guys to work with. I think we've made this one of the best ECPs in Fallujah."