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Photo Information

BARWANA, Iraq (Oct. 26, 2005) - Marines from Company L, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment leave their firm base here to gather census information about their new area of operations here Oct. 26. Leading the patrol is Cpl. Ralph E. Arzate of Victorville, Calif. who along with other Marines and an interpreter went from house to house gathering the information to compile a book to be used for future operations and to get a better feel for the communities. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)

Photo by Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

Victorville, Calif., native leads census patrol in Barwana

26 Oct 2005 | Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

Just days after Company L, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment arrived here, an early morning patrol left their firm base Oct. 26 to learn more about the community.

Corporal Ralph E. Arzate of Victorville, Calif. led the census patrol from house to house as they gathered basic information about each family in the community.

Arzate, some Marines with the company, and an interpreter went to each house in a three-block area, meeting the people and gathering information like names, the number of people in the family, weapons in the house, occupations and vehicles they drive. Once all the information was collected, the Marines got each family together and took a photo of them for future use.

“We use the information to make kind of our own little phone book of all the people in the community,” commented the 2000 Silverado High School graduate. “It’s great knowledge to have so whenever we get a tip on someone we can look at it and tell where he lives, what he drives or who is in his family.”

Once all the information was gathered for the area, it was put into the computer to make a datasheet. This datasheet provides better intelligence to the Marines when they go on operations.

“For the long term, we can use the census book for not only operations but also to find employment for people,” added 2nd Lt. Geoff V. Meno, Seattle native and a platoon commander for the company. “We can hopefully help out the people and build an infrastructure for them.”

The patrol also familiarized the Marines with the area and gave them a feel of how the people respond to having them in the region. Depending on their reaction, the Marines know how to proceed when operating in the area. 

“If we go into a house and the people are respectful and helpful, like most are, it makes us think they are good,” commented Arzate. “But if they act suspicious, we will mark the house and tell other Marines to watch out for that house in the future.”

The use of an interpreter as a link between the Marines and the Iraqi citizens is another major part of gathering information in a community. Although many Iraqi people speak a little English, having an interpreter on patrols saves them days of work as they struggle to break the language barrier.

“He was everything, if we didn’t have him we might not even be able to do this,” said the 23-year-old squad leader. “Without him we would probably spend days doing this, unlike the three hours it actually took us.”

The patrol also helped Arzate’s Marines become familiar with an area they will likely see many more times in the upcoming months. The time they spend patrolling the streets helps them recognize possible ambush positions and understand how the community works on a daily basis.

“We are here for a while,” Arzate added. “The more familiar the Marines become with working in this community, the more effective they will become and the better job we can do out here.”