HAQLANIYAH, Iraq --
Marines assigned to 3rd Squad, 5th Platoon, made up of Marines assigned to various companies within 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, conducted a census patrol here to find out information on local residents in the area.
Due to the tempo of hostile attacks when 1/3 first arrived in Iraq, Marines assigned to the squad were brought to Haqlaniyah from their respective companies to assist in operations by conducting various types of patrols and missions.
“The information we get from the families is used to pretty much set up a map key, so if we have to go to that house we already have the information regarding it,” said Pfc. Sean W. Lynch, squad leader for 3rd squad. “When we enter the house we usually try to determine the basics about the owner like their name, tribe, age and place of birth. We also ask how many people live in the house and write down their badge number, so we can run their information later on.”
Once the information is recorded, it is then turned into the company’s intelligence representative, who files it in the case it is needed for use later on during the deployment.
“These type of patrols help us weed out the good guys from the potentially bad guys,” Lynch, an Orlando, Fla., native added. “For example, we went into a house the other day and the owner was a teacher, so we knew he was really no threat and was here to help the Iraqi children, but when we go into homes of new families, who just moved in from places with known insurgents, we keep a closer eye on them.”
Lance Cpl. William D. Hiett, a team leader, said the patrols are also good for passing information to the locals.
“When it comes up, we let the people know of any new curfew laws or upcoming civil affairs projects,” Hiett added. “It also gives us a chance to hand out candy and supplies to the children in the area.”
Lynch explained they try to get to as many houses as possible during the time allotted for the patrols.
“We average [several] houses every time we go out,” he added. “The patrols can be pretty dangerous because we're in each house for long periods of time, which means if the enemy knows which house we're in, they have time to maneuver and set up an attack on us.”
Hiett, a San Antonio, native, recalled a grenade attack that took place during a census patrol when he first arrived in Haqlaniyah.
“We were on a road known for receiving grenade attacks, which is called'grenade alley' by the Marines, and I looked to my right to clear a fence. When I turned back forward, someone had lobbed a grenade about 10 feet in front of me,” explained the 21-year-old Hiett. “I didn't even see the actual grenade. I just had enough time to look in front of me and see a huge explosion.”
The impact of the grenade threw Hiett against a wall, but no harm was done to him or any of the Marines in his squad.
“Now I know the city like the back of my hand. I know there's always going to be threats, so we have to continue to stay on our toes,” said Hiett.
Private First Class Jose A. Rodriguez, rifleman, explained how he was formerly assigned to Alpha Company and used to hear stories about how hostile of an environment Haqlaniyah was.
“We would always hear how much contact Charlie Company was taking, so when I found out I was going to Haqlaniyah I was nervous, but a little excited at the same time,” Rodriguez said. “Once I got to Headhunter, Charlie Company took a few attacks, but shortly after it seemed to go down to hardly any hostile acts.”
Rodriguez said he enjoys being assigned to 3rd Squad, 5th Platoon and is kept very busy due to the fact that they're utilized as a mounted and dismounted unit.
“We're constantly going on patrols and missions, so it can be pretty demanding,” said Rodriguez, a Spring, Texas, native. “I'm glad we're keeping busy though. There may be days when it's physically hard, but then you come back to the [forward operating base] and know you've accomplished the mission and a sense of pride sets in.”
Hiett described the time he's spent in Haqlaniyah as a great experience and is glad to be there because he feels he's more useful.
“Working with the people and breaking the language barrier is amazing,” Hiett said. “Being out here, I actually feel like I'm making a difference and actually helping the Iraqi people.”
Third Squad, 5th Platoon will continue to conduct mounted and dismounted patrols throughout Haqlaniyah until their scheduled return to Marine Corps Base Hawaii.