AR RAMADI, Iraq -- With the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, heading into their fifth month here in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, many of the Marines are finding themselves becoming mentors and teachers to this new Iraqi Army.
One of those Marines, Lance Cpl. Josh Devries of Company I, recently went on patrol with the IA, Jan. 18.
“We went out and supervised the IA during a routine patrol to ensure they did everything correctly,” said the 20-year-old rifleman from Sumas, Wash. “The Marines here have been working with them and training them for a couple months and we go out with them to make sure they are using our training correctly.”
During the patrol, the Marines would let the Iraqi Army leaders take charge of their own platoons, leaving the Iraqi Army responsible for navigation, searching houses and not leaving any of their soldiers behind.
“Today wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but a lot of the other groups are doing a lot better,” he said. “We go between three different groups, rotating between them every few weeks. They all get equal training with us; it’s just that some catch on faster.
“The biggest problem we have is the language barrier,” he said. “There are only so many interpreters and when we are out in the city with them, we have to work quickly to make them understand what we are trying to tell them.”
Despite the language barrier and learning curve, most of the local Iraqi Army companies are coming along quickly and understand the concepts that the Marines teaching them.
“I think they are doing a lot better than when we first got here,” he said. “They still have a lot of work to do, but they are definitely progressing.”
Along with working with the IA, Devries keeps busy helping his fellow Marines stabilize the city so that rebuilding and progress can finally begin in the capital of the Al Anbar province.
“When we first heard that we were coming to Ramadi, I expected a lot more firefights,” he said. “It’s been a lot quieter than I expected, but there is still a fair amount of action here. The city is what I expected, but our base is a lot nicer than what I thought it would be. Our living conditions are pretty nice.”
Surprisingly pleasant living conditions aside, coming to Iraq was something that Devries joined the Marines Corps to do and looks back on his decision to enlist with pride.
“I was excited when we heard that we were coming here,” he said. “It’s what I joined the Marine Corps to do, it’s why I became an infantryman. I wanted to come here and go to the front of the battle.
“We have a bond between the guys here that you can’t get unless you’ve been in combat and experienced what we have. Being here makes you appreciate the little things a lot more.”