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Rochester, Minn., native back in Iraq for third time

18 Jan 2006 | Cpl. Shane Suzuki

For many Marines on their third deployment to Iraq, the progress made by the Iraqi Army is a welcome surprise.

They remember the chaos after the original push to Baghdad and the failed attempts to organize the remains of the Republican National Guard into a viable fighting force. They remember coming back to Iraq a second time to find a national army rife with corruption and lethargy.

But that now has changed and Marines like Lance Cpl. Joe Raduenz are back to see the results of their work and sacrifice.

On his third deployment, Raduenz is with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine here working with his fellow Marines to help stabilize and protect the city from stubborn insurgent forces.

“We do a lot of supervising of the Iraqi Army while they conduct combat patrols,” said the 22-year-old from Rochester, Minn. “As we work more with the IA, they are progressively getting better. When we first got here, they were horrible; they couldn’t read a map and would always bunch up on patrols. Now they move better through the city and have basic navigation skills.”

Although training the IA was a priority in Iraq when they arrived, Raduenz and his fellow Marines were tasked with ensuring the historical Constitutional Referendum and National Elections went smoothly in both October and December. However, since the successful elections in December, the Marines have made training the preparing the IA a top priority.

“The first time I was here, we didn’t work with the IA at all,” he said. “Then last time we worked to help set up the Iraqi Police, but that didn’t work very well. This time though, the soldiers are showing initiative and drive and a willingness to work. I don’t mind going into firefights with these guys, they are ready to do their job.”

By working so closely with the IA, the Marines are hoping that the IA will soon be able to take over the security here and eventually assume control of the rest of the country.

“They are definitely getting ready to take responsibility for the country,” he said. “I think some of them are ready now. Some companies are better than others right now, but they are all improving the more we work with them.”

With the improving Iraqi Army, and the successful Iraqi Police recruiting drives, it seems that Iraq is finally getting its feet under itself and can start to exist without such a heavy Coalition Force presence, he said.

“It’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to be back home,” said Raduenz. “The things we are doing here and the people you work with make it all bearable.”