AR RUTBAH, Iraq -- As the Al Anbar province in Iraq comes under greater control of coalition forces, Marines are giving more and more of the security responsibilities to Iraqi troops.
Every day, more Iraqi army units are coming on-line to step in to perform security and stability operations where once Marines and American soldiers were doing the heavy lifting.
Assisting in this continuous handover here is 22-year-old Powar, Calif., native, Cpl. Marco A. Jimenez, a scout team leader with 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. He and his fellow Marines with Company A are providing security for Iraqi troops as they man traffic control points in western Al Anbar province.
“We’ve been working with [Iraqi troops] a lot more,” said Jimenez. “They’ve been getting better with training.”
As is the case, any time new individuals come to a unit, there is one major factor that is key in establishing a professional rapport: trust.
“We didn’t work with them much last year. Now we trust them a lot more,” he said.
This is Jimenez’s third tour in Iraq. His decision to enlist in the Marine Corps came after a lifetime as the son of a career Navy man.
“I used to work with my dad doing computer networking, and I would hear him trade sea stories with other workers,” he said. “Those really influenced me to join.”
With his father encouraging him to join as a data communications Marine, Jimenez had other ideas.
“I asked one guy at work what job I should do since I really wanted to shoot rifles, and he told me to join the infantry,” recalled Jimenez.
This decision has brought Jimenez to his current position with 1st LAR, sitting in a fortified position overlooking the traffic control point.
“We’re just here doing observation and advising of the Iraqi army on the conduct of (traffic check points),” Jimenez said. “We pretty much liaison with the Iraqi squad leaders and give the Iraqis classes on how we do things.”
These classes cover elements like how to perform personnel and vehicular searches and how to run TCPs in general, said Jimenez.
As vehicles come through with up to 25 men, women and children, many during this time of year on their hajj, or pilgrimage, the Iraqi troops hand out large Iraqi flags. The gratitude is plain to see.
The residents of western Al Anbar are pleased to see the coalition finally taking steps to improve security. One Iraqi man stepped out of his car during the search and burst into tears, thanking the Iraqi troops and kissing their hands. Another man let the Iraqi flag flutter out of the window, bringing the fabric to his mouth and kissing it.
“Citizens like the TCP. It makes them feel a little safer,” said Jimenez. “They don’t want insurgents here. Plus, they feel a little safer, a little more comfortable, since it’s the Iraqi army.”