HAQLANIYAH, Iraq -- Woodland, Calif., native Lance Cpl. Chris P. Stabler was leading his team down a street here Nov. 27 when suddenly the unusual sound of cheering crowds drew the attention of the patrol.
When Stabler looked down the street, the sounds they had heard were citizens cheering on their family members during a game of street volleyball. It is because of Marines like 21-year-old Stabler that the streets here are safe enough for simple recreational activities.
Stabler and other Marines with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, go on these security patrols every day to talk to local people and make sure there are no improvised explosive devices that could hurt the citizens or Marines. Even though the patrols get tiring for them, many of the people are hospitable when the Marines are around.
“It is pretty great how when you walk into any house to talk with the locals, they offer you tea while you talk with them,” commented Stabler, a team leader for the company. “It makes the patrol go by a little faster.”
Each of these patrols takes proper planning by the team leaders and squad leader. Before heading out, the route is mapped and the Marines are briefed on the mission and given the latest intelligence to help them do their job when on the streets.
“We have to make sure the Marines are good to go before each patrol,” said the 2002 Woodland High School graduate. “We do a patrol overlay and gear checks before we head out.”
The added responsibility of team leader in a combat environment is something Stabler has dealt with for only a few months. But his experience in Iraq helps him with the tough decisions made each day to keep his Marines safe.
“This is the second time for me in Iraq,” he said. “Last year we went through Fallujah and that gave me a lot of experience.”
Even though this is his second tour here, he is still amazed every day when he goes on patrols in the city.
“This place is always a culture shock for me,” he added. “You see some funny stuff just walking around. When you think you’ve seen it all, the next patrol brings something totally new.”
Culture and language barriers can make completing the mission difficult for the Marines. So Iraqi Army soldiers are used to help talk with the citizens and provide a translator when gathering intelligence on the area.
“The people like talking to the Iraqi soldiers better than us,” commented Staff Sgt. Shawn M. Ryan, a platoon sergeant for the company. “They also have a good sense of who is good and bad, so that helps us a lot.”
The Iraqi soldiers also go on every patrol to learn different things from the experienced Marines. With the knowledge passed from Marines like Stabler, the Iraqi soldiers can keep the streets safe for years to come and give the citizens a chance to live normal lives without the threat of terrorism.
“City by city we are working with the Iraqis so they can operate in the city all by themselves,” commented Ryan, a Reno, Nev., native. “There are already posts in this city where only the Iraqis work and the Marines supervise.”