SAHL SINJAR, Iraq --
As far as the eye can see, thick clouds of dust encompass the landscape as light armored vehicles quickly make their way across the barren desert. Dust poured in through the openings of the vehicles as they slowly came to a stop in front of an unmarked compound. A few Marines along with an interpreter approach the entrance and are welcomed by Iraqi police personnel.
Marines from Company C, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, conducted operations with Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi locals to detect and dispose of improvised explosive devices throughout Nofali and Rafiyah, Iraq, April 24-25, 2009.
“We’ve been out in these areas many times before,” said 1st Lt. Blaine Barby, a Co. C platoon commander. “When we come out here, we want to disrupt the enemy. We normally conduct basic counter-insurgency operations. This time we came out in response to possible IED’s in the area, and an IED detonation that killed two civilians.”
The Marines’ assistance does not end at just securing the area and identifying an object as an IED.
“Once we identify an object as an IED, we secure the area ensuring no one is close to the object; then we call our explosive ordnance disposal team to come out and dispose of the unexploded munitions,” Barby said.
Outside of conducting partnered counter-insurgency operations, the Marines of 3rd LAR also do a great deal of work with the inhabitants of the Iraqi villages.
“We go into the cities and towns just to meet with the leaders and elders,” said Sgt. Isaias Hernandez, a squad leader with Co. C. “We ask them if they have any infrastructure problems, security problems, or any issues with illegal smuggling. These types of missions also help us learn our area of operation.”
Once the Marines identify problems within villages, they then work with the Iraqi Army and Police to get the assistance the people need. These efforts to create relationships with the Iraqi people is another means by the which the Marines, working in concert with local security forces, seek to disrupt insurgent and criminal activity in this portion of the Ninewa province.
“Every time we come out and talk to the people, it reinforces that we’re working with the Iraqi Police,” said Barby. “This is a big area and we need all the help we can get, so if we can build the people’s confidence in us it will be very helpful to us in the long run.”
“These engagements show the people that we can get along and work with them,” Hernandez commented. “It also helps to build a better working environment for us. These operations are a privilege for us; if we go around upsetting the people we will lose that privilege and be unwelcome in these areas.”
Building relationships with the Iraqi Army and police is also beneficial to 3rd LAR’s mission.
“Going from place to place makes us familiar among the Iraqi Army and Police,” Barby stated. “We need to build upon that, so that if there’s a problem we can contact them and use their knowledge of the area to help better complete our mission.”
As the afternoon sun’s heat intensified, the Marines once again loaded into their vehicles and drove across the desert. Throughout the next few days the Marines of 3rd LAR continued their routine of meeting with local Iraqis in order to build better relationships between U.S. troops and the Iraqi people, while continuing to support the ISF in the security of the area.