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Photo Information

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq - Marines with 2nd Squad, 4th Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment move through the city streets here under the cover of darkness as they prepare to reach their designated search sector during 'Operation Hard Knock' July 27. Company A Marines searched dozens of houses throughout the small township outside Fallujah, searching for weapons, explosives and insurgent activity while gathering census data on the populace there. The unit apprehended one suspected insurgent supporter.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

Kentucky native serves to defend Iraq

27 Jul 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

By his own admission, this 19-year-old Marine lives the life of a Hollywood action hero everyday in Iraq.

His name isn’t Triple X or Indiana Jones. It’s simply Pfc. Chris Goddard, a young infantry team leader from the town of Owensboro, Ky.

“Basically, what we do here is all the fun stuff you see in the movies, only sometimes it’s not so fun,” said the 2004 Owensboro High School graduate. “Ninety-nine percent of the time you’re bored, and the other one percent, you’re working none stop.”

Since mid-April, Goddard and his teammates with Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment have worked alongside Iraqi Security Forces to bring security to Saqlawiyah, a rural township outside Fallujah. It’s a job that requires patrolling village’s streets and surrounding fields.

“We started out operating in Fallujah in mid-March, doing our security patrols around our old base there,” Goddard said. “In April, we moved here to start doing lots of raids that nabbed a bunch of targets. We’ve been doing operations almost every night.”

Company A refurbished and is currently operating out of an abandoned Iraqi school campus, a place they’ve known as home for the past four months. From here, the Marines and ISF conduct nonstop missions to root out Saqlawiyah’s insurgency and rebuild the city’s infrastructure.

Many terrorists had fled to this city last year, seeking refuge from coalition forces assaulting through Fallujah.

“Our company has done great things here so far,” Goddard stated. “In the beginning, we were getting rocketed and mortared all the time. After we conducted a number of operations finding weapons caches, things started calming down.”

The Marines’ latest effort to quell local terrorism took place July 27, Operation Hard Knock.

Marines and Iraqi troops searched dozens of homes within Saqlawiyah and gathered census data on the citizens to use as area intelligence.

The troops also jotted down residents’ AK-47 assault rifle serial numbers to register the weapons locals use for home defense.

One suspected insurgent supporter was detained during this five-hour long patrol.

The operation was only one mission in a string of successes Goddard’s Marines have accomplished thus far.

In the past, they have discovered several stockpiles of munitions used to make roadside and car bombs, one of the primary weapons used by insurgents in Iraq.

Additionally, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment personnel provided security for the establishment of Saqlawiyah’s city council, a body of local government officials first assembled in April.

Once a week, Iraqi and U.S. military leaders discuss concerns and grievances with these community leaders to provide better security and quality of life for the citizens.

“When we first got here, the people didn’t know what was going on or how to take it,” Goddard said. “They’ve come around a little and started realizing that we’re here to help them.”

To reinforce this belief, Saqlawiyah’s residents now see their own nation’s police force operating in the city. Lack of a local police force was one concern addressed during a city council session April 27.

Within months, American military and Iraqi officials rectified this situation. Now a police force provides security in Saqlawiyah with personnel to bolster their strength in the following months.

Although only a private first class in the Marine Corps, it is the security Goddard and his fellow junior Marines provide that enabled Saqlawiyah’s positive transformation. 

Where once civil disorder and insurgent strong-arm tactics dominated the populace, local police and military forces now foster a progressive environment for the creation of a new Saqlawiyah.

“It’s when you see your work paying off that you realize it’s all worth it,” Goddard said.