CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The sun peaks over the horizon as Marines gear up for an early morning patrol into the villages surrounding their forward operating base.
Sergeant Jasen G. Nikolow, 3rd Squad Leader for 2nd Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, ensures his Marines have all their gear before beginning the one and a half kilometer trip to the nearest village.
“We saw the urban side when we were patrolling the area in and around Al Karmah and now we get to see the other side of Iraq, the rural side,” stated the Leominster, Mass., native.
With a herd of sheep off in the distance as they marched to the nearest house, Nikolow enjoyed the wide open space he now patrolled with his Marines. He talked to the man of the house using the interpreter accompanying his squad.
Having patrolled in this area before during previous operations, Nikolow, a 2002 graduate of Leominster High School, knew that the people were friendly and willing to talk to the Marines. Nikolow and his squad worked their way through the village and headed for the college on its outskirts.
“If you stay to long in one area you might start to get some funny looks from people. So you talk to a few people and move on to the next area,” Nikolow stated.
There was little traffic at the college due to the students having the day off. The Marines went to the dorms and talk to a few of the students in the building. After sharing a few laughs with them, the squad headed for the next village.
There they were offered lunch by one of the older men in the village. Not wanting to be rude, they sat down with the men in the family for the meal. The Marines thanked them after the meal and continued to patrol the village after talking with the men for a while about the village.
Nikolow and the Marines spotted some kids playing soccer and joined in for a few minutes before moving to the last village on the route.
“Interacting with the people in the villages is an important part of collecting information we may be able to use in the future,” he stated.
They made their way through the last village without incident completing another successful patrol. Heading back to the FOB as their shadows grew long, Nikolow and his Marines are setting up their successors for success.
“Handing over an area that is not hostile towards coalition forces and is willing to talk to Marines about the area is a successful mission in my mind,” Nikolow stated.