KARMAH, Iraq --
Iraqis living in villages north of Karmah have begun their first group of local security forces with the aid of Marines from Company K, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6.
The Iraqi Community Watch is a portion of the recent push of Coalition Forces into the area. The predecessors of “America’s Battalion” had focused their efforts elsewhere in the Karmah area, making these villages one of the last holdouts of insurgent activity in the region.
“With them just being established out there, it means were going to have to conduct regular mounted patrols out there, check on them, make sure they’re all right and show a presence so that the insurgents know we’re backing (the ICW),” said Cpl. Matthew L. Hathaway, a squad leader with third platoon.
Entry and vehicle control points were placed on the roads leading in and out of the village where the ICW will keep a close eye on the people traveling through the area and the contents of what they are carrying along with them.
“Right now, the main responsibility we’re putting on them is to monitor the traffic in and out of the areas,” said Hathaway, a 21-year-old Lancaster Co., Va., native. “They monitor what is coming in through vehicles and try to cut down on any bomb making materials that come through those checkpoints.”
Hathaway went on to explain that due to the lack of local Iraqi security forces in the area, insurgents, black marketeers and other criminals could come and go as they pleased. The ICW checkpoints changed all that, he said.
Now that the initial group of men that makes up the ICW is established, the Marines are faced with the job of filtering through them to determine which of them are trustworthy enough to continue on with the responsibilities of protecting the area.
“We got to start weeding through them finding out who we want to be ICW and who we don’t want to be the ICW, but you can’t really do that right off the bat because you’ve got to get the numbers first. Then you can start picking and choosing who you want in it,” Hathaway explained.
With checkpoints in place, the Marines hope to move through the area more quickly without the threat of improvised explosive devices and ambushes.
“We’ll remain active in the area until it is totally secure,” Smith reassured. “This is a big step. Getting the ICW checkpoints is a very big step and hopefully we can move out here with much more ease than we have had in the past.”