FALLUJAH, Iraq -- With the last rays of the setting sun shining down upon his face, Pfc. Jerrell Poole stands behind his HMMWV’s gun turret, as his column of Marines and armored vehicles rumbles down a destroyed city back alleyway.
The 22-year-old Pollock, La. native smells gasoline and rotting garbage as the patrol combs through an unnamed street, kicking aside rocks and debris in their wake.
Despite the miserable conditions and run down homes that Fallujah’s residents live in, the Iraqi children seem elated as they wave and smile at the passing Marine patrol.
“People respect what we’re doing here,” stated Poole, a vehicle gunner with 1st Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “I think they realize we’re helping give their (parents’) kids a brighter future than maybe they had when they were young.”
The 1999 Grant High School graduate’s unit is currently helping Interim Iraqi Forces provide security and stability to Fallujah’s residents. To accomplish this, CAAT Marines constantly patrol the city streets aboard armored military vehicles and on foot.
“We’re always patrolling to disrupt terrorist activity here,” Poole said. “Our goal is to stop them before they even start anything, and strong ‘show of force’ patrols keep those that don’t like us away.”
His situational assessment seems correct. Recently, Iraqi children approached a CAAT unit on patrol to tell them where a nearby explosive detonation device was located.
“The kids are always really good to us on patrol. They’re always smiling, waving and sometimes even give us intel.”
In addition to providing presence patrols, CAAT platoons are trained to set up quick vehicle check points, known as snap VCPs. Marines manning these stations randomly stop traffic to search cars and the occupants aboard for arms, ammunition, explosive devices and anti-Iraqi government propaganda.
Additionally, CAAT units supply the battalion with quick reaction force capabilities, maintaining a group of combatants and vehicles on hand to respond to impromptu missions.
Another mission these Marines perform is providing security for convoys by escorting vehicles loaded with personnel and supplies. CAAT platoons are currently helping to escort 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (the unit 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment relieved here) to the Al Taqaddam Airbase area so the unit can begin retrograding to the United States.
Poole and his fellow Marines said performing these missions “is sometimes like working a 24-hour-long day.”
“Even when we’re off, not going out on patrol, we’re still on call,” stated fellow 1st CAAT Platoon infantryman Lance Cpl. Christopher C. Bradford.
Despite the long hours these Marines work, Poole remains motivated to perform his missions and serve his country in time of war.
“I know we’re making a difference in the lives of the people here. I’m happy to be able to say that I was one of the guys that helped to make it happen.”