FALLUJAH, Iraq -- An ominous silence swallows the streets of Fallujah once the sun sets. The city is dead asleep, most lights are off, and residents are inside their homes. Marines from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, however, are out on the streets knocking on doors and collecting census information from the locals.
Using a list of local residents’ home addresses that have yet to fill out census forms, Marines of G Company routinely conduct census patrols from house to house to gather insurgent intelligence and basic information about each family in the area.
“It’s not the most glorious job we do,” admitted Sgt. Nicholas J. Olson, a squad leader within the company. “But they do have their purpose. Census patrols get us out there with the locals. We’re here to help them.”
Olson, an Everett, Mass., native, led his Marines and an interpreter to the homes spread throughout their designated area of operation. Once inside the homes, the interpreter and Lance Cpl. Carl R. Gaskin, an assaultman and self-taught interpreter, explained the situation to the homeowner and asked to bring together everyone in the house.
“We have the man of the house fill out basic information about his family,” Gaskin said. “Some of things filled out are information on his wife, children, number of vehicles, license plate numbers, cell phone numbers, if there are any weapons in the house and the occupations of the residents.”
Gathering this information is vital in the role in ceasing insurgent activity in the city. It is also a good way to get out into the city and build trust and good relationships with the people. When locals begin to set their trust on coalition forces, they are more likely to divulge information on insurgent activity in the area, Olson said.
Once all the information is gathered, it is transcribed to a datasheet on a computer. The datasheet provides prudent intelligence for the Marines who routinely move around the city.
While Gaskin gathered the preferred essentials, Seaman Danny L. Lowderman, a corpsman with the company, asks the family, with the interpreter’s help, if there are any health issues that he can assist with. In one household, the Auburn, Wash. native assisted a mother and her six-month old daughter.
“She said her baby was sick,” said Lowderman, an Auburn, Wash., native. “This kind of thing happens a lot. Fallujah is not like a city back home. They just can’t get into a car and drive to a hospital.”
Asking numerous questions while performing a quick examination, the 22-year-old corpsman checked the baby’s vitals and determined that she was malnourished. After giving both medication and advice, the corpsman joined back up with Gaskin, who provided the family with a contact number to use if they needed to contact the unit.
“Building a rapport with the residents is important to our mission,” Gaskin said. “The more they understand that we are here to help, the safer it is for everyone.”