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AR RAMADI, Iraq (November 21, 2005) -AR RAMADI, Iraq (November 21, 2005) - Private First Tony Mihalo, a rifleman with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is enjoying his time in Iraq and understands that the sooner that they can help the Iraqi Army become solvent, the sooner Coalition Forces will be able to leave Iraq in Iraqi hands. Photo by Cpl. Shane Suzuki

Photo by Cpl. Shane Suzuki

Naperville, Ill., native helps build Iraqi Army

9 Dec 2005 | Cpl. Shane Suzuki

Marines from Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, recently worked with a platoon of Iraqi Army soldiers during a security patrol through the streets here Nov. 18.

The patrol, which was one of the first patrols to be planned and executed almost entirely by the Iraqi soldiers, was considered a success and is a sign that the IA is growing up and will soon be able to take charge of their country’s security, said Pfc Tony Mihalo, an infantryman with Company I.

“We went out with the IA to help them build confidence and to get used to patrolling in that area of the town,” said the 20-year-old Naperville, Ill., native. “It went really well. They seemed to know what to do when we arrived in the neighborhood. They picked the route and seemed to be rather comfortable patrolling through the streets.”

While working with the IA is not something new for the Marines of the battalion, working with such a confident and proficient group is a new experience for many of the Marines, including Mihalo.

“Working with them is a good thing,” said the Naperville North High School graduate. “They have improved vastly in the last couple of weeks we’ve worked with them. Their progress has been in leaps and bounds.”

The operation also gave the Marines a chance to critique and help the IA on concepts and lessons the Marines learned during their time here. Applying these lessons, paired with the battalion’s increasing success in clearing the insurgent threat around the city, is allowing the Marines to rely more on the IA, with the eventual goal of handing over a section of the city to them to protect. 

“Things are going relatively well, I think,” Mihalo said. “The city is a lot safer now. We’ve made a dent in the amount of sniper attacks and there are less (improvised explosive device) attacks there too. This is why it is very important to work with the IA. Ultimately, we want to hand over responsibility of part of the city to the Iraqis. These patrols are helping them gain confidence in their abilities to operate in their own city.”

Being able to help the IA grow as a military force and being able to serve his country by coming to Iraq are both reasons Mihalo was eager to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I’m excited to be here, it was what I expected when I joined the Marine Corps,” he said. “I expected to come to Iraq and do this. For the most part, it’s what I expected with snipers and IEDs. I didn’t expect it to get cold so fast, but that’s not a big deal, I’m still glad to be here.”