HAQLANIYAH, Iraq -- Grenades, improvised explosive devices and small arms attacks are all known threats while convoying or patrolling the streets here, but with Marines conducting dismounted patrols through the city those threats become minimal.
Continuing operations, 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, recently set-out to conduct a contact patrol throughout the city, one of the three that make up the Haditha Triad.
“We left the [forward operating base] and swept a wadi for a weapons cache that we were told was in the area,” said Lance Cpl. Dustin R. Crandell, squad leader, 2nd squad, 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1/3. “Nothing was found, so we then began to visit some of the local houses to see if they have seen or heard anything recently.”
Crandell added when he speaks to locals, he likes to ask personal questions, so they feel comfortable with him.
“I'll usually start off the conversation by asking about their home or occupation,” he added. “Once I think they feel comfortable with me, I'll begin to ask more tactical questions, like if there are any new people in the area.”
Lance Cpl. Manne Dominguez, team leader, 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, said the patrols help build trust between the Marines and the locals.
“When we first got here, we had a lot of families ask us not to come back to their homes because they were afraid for their lives if they were seen interacting with the Marines,” Dominguez, a Magnolia, Texas, native said. “We don't really get that much anymore, and the people seem to like having us here.”
Dominguez said many families will often invite the Marines in for a meal or will come out of their homes just to shake their hands.
“The people have seemed to really grown to like us in most parts of Haqlaniyah,” the 21-year-old Dominguez explained. “The kids are great. When we patrol, a lot of the children will follow us just because they like being around us, maybe because we hand out candy and toys on all of our patrols.”
The squad usually conducts several patrols a day.
“We also do satellite patrols, which is when the squad is split (up), and we push through the city,” Dominguez added. “I prefer these types of patrols because we have the other fire team there to back you up.”
Crandell, a Jackson, Mich., native, said he didn't know what to expect on his first patrol in the area and was nervous leaving the wire.
“You never know what you're getting into, but after keeping the presence in the city and doing more patrols, it isn't too bad and you get used to going out,” he added. “We trained really well for this deployment, and (the pre-deployment training) was a big help for me and my Marines.”
Lance Cpl. Tyler S. Moran, radio operator, 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, said the area has calmed down a lot since the company's arrival into the area in late March and hopes it stays that way.
“When we first got here there were a lot of attacks, but you can see a change in the area,” said Moran. “I used to worry all the time about IEDs, grenades and small arms fire, but with the change in the area my biggest fear now is snipers.”
Although the area is taking fewer attacks, it only takes one event to bring back the butterflies in your stomach, said Dominguez.
“All it takes is for us to hear about an IED being found in our area and the nervousness comes back,” Dominguez said. “It's calm now, but things can change any second. That's why the Marines have to stay on their toes and can't become complacent. I'm comfortable when I leave the wire now, but I'll continue to do my job, and that's what it takes. Just getting the job done and keeping your head in the game and doing that is going to help me get myself and all of my Marines home safely.”