CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Private Jefferson J. Haney was an artilleryman with Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment before his entire battery was converted into a provisional rifle company to provide security here for the 2nd Marine Division’s headquarters element.
Now, the 25-year-old Fresno, Calif., native is a straight-leg infantryman patrolling the streets that surround the camp.
He arrived here in late August and quickly got to work as a machine-gunner manning the turret of a humvee, sometimes conducting six mounted patrols each day.
“It was an awesome experience,” Haney said. “But it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to interact with the people. When you’re on a mounted patrol everything is speeding by at fifty miles an hour.”
Haney got his chance to interact with the people in September when the company was divided into different sections. Some would strictly conduct mounted patrols, others dismounted. Haney was assigned to the dismounted and he has participated in nearly 100 patrols.
This experience opened Haney’s eyes. Instead of seeing the world as it sped by, he had the opportunity to see many of the individuals he thought he was fighting against.
“Before I came here, I thought everybody here was a bad guy,” Haney said. “I know different now. When we first started patrolling people were put off by us, but it was because we were new faces. Within a few weeks things had changed. We could approach people and they would invite us into their homes. The people here are very friendly and family oriented.
“We go into their homes, we know their names and their children’s names and they know ours.”
Haney and his fellow Marines have obtained a lot more than friendship from getting to know the people here. After a few weeks of patrolling, Haney said they became so familiar with the people here they can often distinguish friend from foe by sight.
“The people here are mostly farmers,” Haney said. “The terrorists that come here to fight sometimes come from hundreds of miles away. We can tell if they are outsiders by their body language and the way they carry themselves.”
The daily presence patrols and house visits also build a reciprocal relationship between the Marines and the people living here. The Marines provide protection and security from the insurgents that have moved into their neighborhoods and the people provide information that leads to their capture.
“We’re not fighting a uniformed force here so we have to get to know the people,” Haney said. “We’ve gotten to know them and they trust us because they know we are here to help them. They give us valuable [information] so we can detain these guys and they can be sent away to be judged rather than us trying to kill them. I’d rather have the judicial system deal with these guys instead of us.”
Haney knows he is doing his part and that the role he and his fellow Marines play is just a small part of a greater effort. He is also hopeful about the future and believes the constant patrolling and work that he and his fellow Marines are doing now will pay large dividends in the future.
“We’re not just out here to police the people,” Haney said. “We’re here to help them help themselves. We’re doing our small part here. I know what we’re doing is not that significant in the big picture, but when you put all the little parts together, we’re getting it done.”
Haney was reassured of their progress shortly after the Iraqi Constitutional Referendum Oct. 15. Prior to the election, Haney and members of his squad canvassed the city, handing out flyers encouraging people to vote and informing the people about poll locations. They discovered the fruits of their labor on patrol late in the evening of the 15th.
“We had conducted three to four patrols that day,” Haney said. “On our last patrol of the day we were curious to see who had voted. The people who were coming out of their houses all had ink on their fingers. It was really encouraging.”
Regardless of victory or defeat on the battle field, Haney said the one thing that keeps him motivated is his fellow Marines.
“We’re all a family here,” Haney said. “The Marines around me keep me motivated. It’s something that we all do for each other. We’re always looking out for one another all the way up to the [commanding officer]. If I get down someone is always there to bring me up and I do the same for everyone else. This experience has brought us all closer together.”