AL KARMAH, Iraq -- The Iraqi Security Forces, Jarrod A. Buhler, and his fellow Marines from 3d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment began their movement through a small village where the ISF secured a building to use as a base for patrols.
Marines like Lance Cpl. Buhler have been training with Iraqi soldiers for over four months. They have partnered with an ISF company to help prepare them for taking over the security of Fallujah and more importantly, Iraq.
Now that Iraqi soldiers are beginning to take on more responsibility during the patrols, fewer Marines are conducting patrols and other operations with them.
“I think the ISF doing more on their own is outstanding and it’s the first step toward us going home,” explained Buhler, a Lebanon, Tenn., native.
The ratio of ISF soldiers to Marines has greatly increased in the time the battalion’s worked with the ISF. Each patrol is another opportunity for the soldiers to gain more responsibility.
The soldiers who once watched the Marines as they patrol through local areas have learned the tactics, techniques and procedures for patrolling and are now being watched and advised by their Marine counterparts.
“The ISF have greatly improved in their professionalism, discipline and basic combat and leadership skills since we have been working with them,” said Army Master Sgt. Steven T. Chriest, part of the Advisor Support Team with the ISF.
The local populace has responded well to the Iraqi soldiers’ presence as their patrols and responsibilities have increased. The Marines and soldiers now move through the community and use available homes for temporary bases of operations with minimal complications due to a positive view of the multi-national forces.
“You have to keep up good relations, because things as small as a band-aid or piece of candy will help the people realize we are here to help them and they will in turn help us when we need it,” Buhler said.
On this particular patrol the Iraqis provide security while manning their base in an unoccupied home. One squad handled security while a second squad passed out handfuls of band-aids and ointment to each family.
When the squad handing out medical supplies returned from the civil-military operation, they replaced the squad providing security. They, in turn, patrolled for a few hours checking out the area while showing a strong military presence.
The ISF manned and conducted the checkpoints under the supervision of the Marines. The Marines explained to the Iraqi squad leader what needed to happen and that they would be watching and ready in case they needed help.
“Checkpoints are very important and it’s good to have them (ISF) practicing and getting better, because the more they do it, the better they will be able to carry out the techniques needed to stop insurgents from smuggling weapons and IED’s around,” Buhler said.
As the ISF are working toward the handover of security responsibilities of the region by completing these operations, the Marines continue to provide training and guidance to them.
“As long as they are willing to put forth the effort and learn from our teachings, we will be successful in training them,” Buhler stated.