HABBANIYAH, Iraq --
Marines with third platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, have dismantled and de-militarized the patrol base that has been their home for months.
The purpose of patrol bases such as these is to bring Marines as far into a troubled community as possible. This enables them to work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces and residents to improve the area and put an end to violence.
Such intimate integration into the neighborhoods has yielded such positive results that they have effectively worked themselves out of a job. The people have taken responsibility for protecting their community. Iraqi Police have developed into an effective law enforcement organization. Now that these landmarks have been reached, it is time to move out of Patrol Base Stafford.
“We’ve been working with the Iraqi Police in the area, making sure they can do their jobs and helping them with anything they need,” said Cpl. Jayson A. Pihajlic, a 21-year-old squad leader and native of Lake Orion, Mich. “At this point they have everything under control and can handle it all themselves.”
Pihajlic, a 2004 Lake Orion High School graduate, said this de-militarization and move from the area is a small example of the end goal for all of Iraq.
“This is just a model of what we, as Marines specifically, are doing over here, and its working,” he said.
The combat engineer platoon working to pull apart Stafford couldn’t agree more, said Sgt. Christopher G. Frame, a 25-year-old heavy equipment operator.
“We have built or improved over six patrol bases, which is great, but the ‘de-mil’ is also a positive thing, because this will free up Marines to head to another area and do the same thing,” said the Julesburg, Colo., native who is on his third deployment. “It is also good, because an Iraqi man is getting his house back. The platoon leaving means less military force is needed. You look, and there are less and less Coalition Forces and it’s not us doing all of the work. It’s a joint effort between us, the Iraqi Police and the neighborhood watch.”
Once the Charlie Company Marines move out of Stafford, the platoon will start conducting mounted patrols throughout their area of operation.
“We are now only going to be checking in on the IPs to make sure standards are being met,” said Pihajlic. “That’s the way we are doing it. Once we feel they can operate on their own and the area is secured, we move somewhere else to do the same thing.”
As the de-militarization wrapped up, the owner of the house was standing among the Marines and their equipment. The owner, Ahmed Muhsim, said while temporarily losing use of his property was difficult, it was satisfying being part of the solution to bringing stability to his community.
“I’m very happy because I am coming back to my home, but it is very good that the Marines could use my house,” said Muhsim, a farmer. “At first I didn’t think I would get my house back, but it is very well and good, because this area is safe now because of the Marines. I like that.”