AL KHAFFAJIYAH, Iraq -- While many Marines use the cover of darkness to secretly infiltrate and secure cities and towns across Iraq, Lance Cpl. Pedro L. Rangel is doing his best to be seen and heard.
The 21-year-old, Merrillville, Ind., native, with Regimental Combat Team 2, uses a mobile loud speaker to blare messages to local Iraqis once coalition forces have entered a city.
“A lot of times we’ll sneak into a town late at night when everyone is sleeping so no one knows we’re there.” Rangel said. “But early the next morning, I’m usually out and about with our loud speaker blaring messages to the people in the city.”
Rangel uses his loud speaker to inform inhabitants about the coalition’s presence and to stay clear while they conduct their operations. His messages usually tell residents to stay indoors, not to drive, to approach Coalition Forces with caution and that their lives are not in danger.
“I’m out there letting the people know how they can stay safe,” Rangel said. “It also helps us so we don’t end up hurting someone who is just confused about what to do when we cross paths.”
Rangel also interacts with the citizens here. He conducts face-to-face meetings with local Iraqis, letting them know how they can help make their city safer by cooperating with Coalition Forces. He passes out leaflets with contact numbers and e-mail addresses for Iraqi citizens to call or write with tips about insurgent activity.
He said he most always gets positive feedback from the people he meets, but rarely is given information on the spot. Many Iraqis are fearful of retribution by the insurgency if they are discovered providing information to Coalition Forces.
Rangel is not discouraged by the lack of face-to-face feedback.
“I know they don’t want to be seen giving us information because they are scared of what might happen to them so it’s okay if they don’t want to talk right then.” Rangel said. “I also know that when they take that piece of paper from my hand they will be calling or writing soon and the information they give us will help us catch the bad guys and keep Coalition Forces safe.”
Since his arrival here in February, Rangel has taken part in numerous operations to route out insurgents and take weapons out of their hands. One such operation was Operation River Sweep, where they rounded up weapons caches along a large section of the Euphrates River from Hit to Dulab. He also helped clear insurgents out of a military housing complex in the northern section of Baghdadi, nabbed insurgents and confiscated weapons in Haqliniyah. Now he is helping soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment sweep through Al Khaffajiyah.
“I’ve had a lot of great experiences since I’ve been here,” Rangel said. “We’ve done a lot of good and I see the improvements we’ve made here on a daily basis.”
Rangel said his experiences here opened his eyes to what is important to him. This is his first deployment and he now realizes how important his wife Katie and one-year-old son, Pedro Jr., are to him. He also said the experience has helped him appreciate the freedoms he enjoys as an American.
“When I joined the Marine Corps I wanted to get away from the town I was in, but now I want to go back,” Rangel said. “It’s kind of ironic. I know that since I’ve been here I’ve grown to understand how great it is to live in the U.S. The people here have to worry about (improvised explosive devices) and being killed by insurgents. We don’t have to worry about any of that.”
Rangel is glad he joined the Marine Corps because it gave him the opportunity to give back to his country.
“Right now we’re fighting the insurgency and helping to free the people of Iraq,” Rangel said. “But by being here we’re also keeping terrorists from attacking the U.S. I’m willing to serve my country to keep the terrorists away because the more we get here the less we’ll have in the states.”