HUSAYBAH, Iraq --
It was supposed to be a normal patrol. Their mission was to provide a presence down Market Street, but a red truck caught their eye. Was this the red truck they’ve been looking for? They weren’t sure but they had to find out.
“The truck pulled up and saw us, so it backed in reverse. Cpl. Schwartz chased him, so we followed,” said Pfc. Phillip Stevens, a Trego, Wis., native, and rifleman with Headquarters Platoon, Alpha Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2.
A teenager stepped out of the vehicle, hands up in the air. The passengers, two children and a woman stepped out of the vehicle and were placed to the side. The Marines quickly realized the 17-year-old driver wasn’t the truck’s owner.
“The nephew brought his uncles over to the truck,” said Lance Cpl. Kristian Bandy, a 2000 Carbondale High School, De Sota, Ill. graduate and team leader with A Company.
One of the driver’s uncles owned the shiny, red truck that matched the description of a vehicle of interest, but the owner didn’t match the description of the insurgent.
“I seriously thought they were innocent,” Bandy said. “They showed no hostilities and were cooperative in every way.”
The Marines followed proper procedure and after searching the men, driver and the vehicle, they then called their combat operations center to report their findings. The COC responded with a “Stand by.”
Streetlights gave an orange glow to the darkness, but the Marine’s gear seemed to trap in the day’s heat as they stood by for further information.
“No matter how hot I was or how tired my men were from standing security,” Bandy said, “we weren’t going to become complacent by taking anything off.”
Time passed and the vehicle-owner’s brother walked around the corner to his store with two Marines, while others stood security, so the Marines could search the store. It was filled with candy, sodas and cigarettes not unlike an American convenience store. These people were beginning to seem less and less like terrorists to the Marines.
The streets were cordoned off while the Marines waited for the Quick Reaction Force, or QRF, to show up and pick the two uncles up for questioning. No alarms were raised because the Marines knew, as do the Iraqis, that innocent civilians are brought home safely after a few questions.
Curiosity sparked a few onlookers who quickly became interpreters for Marines standing watch on Market Street, keeping vehicles away from the cordoned-off area.
“Civilians were not only cooperative, but they were willing to help,” Evers said. “This made our job easier and less stressful.”
The Marines started to feel foolish for detaining two seemingly decent Husaybah citizens who offered drinks from their store as well as cigarettes from their pockets to the patrol. That feeling quickly changed when the QRF rolled up in up-armored humvees.
The two men’s faces turned ghostly-pale when they recognized one of the Marines coming out of the vehicle. They started to forget about any chance of walking away when they heard the QRF Marines call them by name.
A high level Al Qaeda in Iraq international financier had just been caught by the Marines of A Company.
The unknown Marine took the detainees into the humvee for questioning at the detention center.
“We didn’t think any of these guys were anybody important,” said Lance Cpl. Alantino Garcia, a San Carlos, Ariz., native, and assistant patrol leader with A Company.
“I’ll never go by my own intuition again,” Bandy said.
The enemy in Husaybah might hide right in front of the Marines for a short time, but intelligence and patience allows the Marines to unmask these terrorists and expose them to the townspeople for who they really are; an enemy to peace.