CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, continue to provide a strong presence here after 90 days of counter-insurgency operations.These operations consist of searching for weapons and insurgent propaganda, rooting out suspected insurgent operatives and rebuilding the local community through civil-military programs.Together with the Iraqi Security Forces, the battalion conducts counter-insurgency operations to neutralize the insurgents and establish a secure environment within which political, social, and economical progress is possible."We have been conducting combined operations with the Iraqi Security Forces since our arrival, starting with the elections of the Iraqi Transitional Government,” explained Lt. Col. Stephen Neary, commander of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.In addition to neutralizing the insurgency, the battalion works daily with the ISF to better facilitate a future turn over of responsibility.“One of our primary goals is to turn over some of the towns we are currently patrolling together to the ISF,” explained Neary.Another aspect of turning over the operational responsibility to the ISF is the establishment of better health care, schools, public works, fire fighting capability and a new police force. To do this the battalion utilizes civil affairs programs to compliment military, political and economical operations. These programs are run by Marines with the 5th Civil Affairs Group here in direct support of the battalion. As they determine what projects, such as rebuilding a school, need to be done, they then contract the work to local Iraqi businessmen. “We are here to help fix problems by finding solutions and implementing those solutions by hiring Iraqi’s to complete the needed work,” explained Maj. Mark Fuller, Team 2’s commander, Detachment 2, 5th CAG.Over the past 90 days, the battalion’s operations have uncovered various small and large weapons caches; consisting of Surface-to-Air-Missiles, mortars, missile launchers, RPGs, pistols, rifles, machine guns and ammunition. These caches were either hidden in buildings or buried so they could be recovered for future attacks on the Marines and Multi-National Coalition Forces. Thus far, 78 weapons caches have been uncovered resulting in the confiscation of 263 small arms weapons, 52 improvised explosive devices, 16,928 rounds of unexploded ordnance (14.5 mm or larger) and tens of thousands of 7.62 mm rounds for small and medium machine guns.“The current insurgency is desperate but tenacious; finding these caches make it much more difficult for them to harm U.S. Forces or innocent civilians,” explained Sgt. Abel Rojas, a Marine from the intelligence section.For these and other operations conducted here, the Marines and sailors with the battalion have earned 43 meritorious masts, 36 certificates of commendations and 64 Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. There are still numerous other awards for valor and bravery currently awaiting approval and the battalion’s deployment is still a long way from its conclusion. “Everyone likes to hear, ‘job well done’ or ‘thank you for going above and beyond or being selfless.’ We must recognize the best America has to offer,” explained Neary.During a recent awards formation, Neary talked about commitment to excellence and the need to focus on the basics. “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” he said while encouraging the Marines to not get complacent over the next couple of months. “This, my men, is the time to shift to overdrive so you remain the hunter not the hunted.”As Task Force 3/8 shifts into overdrive, they continue pushing forward in their mission to provide a stable, secure environment here for Iraq’s people and for the economy to flourish.