AR RAMADI, Iraq -- First Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, is using diplomacy, not just well-aimed rounds, to eliminate insurgent activity in Al Anbar’s provincial capital as well as restore its infrastructure.
Marines with the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., based infantry battalion – in Iraq for the third time supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom – engage the enemy in firefights, but more importantly, through negotiations with civilians.
Corporal Vernon E. Corbett and his fellow warriors in 3rd Squad, 4th Platoon, Company A, use this direct and indirect approach to fighting each time they take to the urban battlefield here and conduct security and stabilization operations.
“We question people about insurgents when we go on patrols,” the 25-year-old squad leader and rifleman from Kansas City, Mo., said. “They might have information about (insurgents).”
Third Squad embarked on a mission recently searching several houses in a portion of Company A’s area of operations.
The Marines scoured the residences for sniper hideouts, weapons caches and “anything that could harm (service members) or civilians,” explained the 2000 Hickman Mills High School graduate, who’s on his second deployment to Iraq.
With help from an interpreter, Corbett and his Marines explained their intentions to the people they encountered at each home. They also gave them Coalition and Iraqi Government fliers that have a telephone number citizens can call to report insurgent activity.
“We’re after insurgents,” he said to an Iraqi man while his home was being searched. “Do you know where they are? Call this number if you do.”
Corbett explained most Iraqis don’t give up information on the spot because having Marines in their homes frightens them. Insurgents intimidate the citizens to not cooperate with coalition forces. The ones that do call often call several days later.
“We’re here to help them, but they need to help themselves too,” he said. “It’s hard to make their city safer if they don’t let us know of insurgent activity.”
The Marines remain courteous when interacting with the locals, Corbett said.
“We want to earn their trust so they will be more willing to help us,” he said. “The goal is to get them to call us and report the insurgents. That and tell the insurgents when they see them that the Marines are looking for them and will kill them.”
Not every household is helpful, though.
Third Squad ran into minor resistance during their search.
Lance Cpl. James E. Evans, a squad automatic machine gunner with the squad, found a loaded AK-47 and ammunition in one man’s home after he said he didn’t have any weapons.
“He lied to us,” said the 25-year-old from St. Louis. “He was acting suspicious from the time we entered his house and started looking around,” added the 1998 Fox High School graduate.
Because of his suspicious activity, the man earned him self a digital photograph and a spot in 1st Battalion, 5th Marines’ records.
“We took his picture so the Marines back at (Camp Hurricane Point) can enter him into the (Biometric Automated Toolset),” said Corbett. “We’ll have a permanent record of him.”
The man was allowed to keep his weapon because, according to Corbett, each household is authorized to possess a weapon for home protection.
After searching several houses, Corbett led his Marines through the city’s marketplace. Corbett spoke to several storeowners and shoppers and handed out more fliers urging them to report insurgents.
The Marines finished their mission without incident and returned to their base.
“We established a presence today and got our point across to the people that we’re here to help,” Corbett said as he wiped sweat from his forehead. “We’re hot and tired, but we worked together well. We always do.”