AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and soldiers from an Iraqi Army battalion recently concluded the last in a series of battalion-sized operations here when they finished Operation Skinner Dec. 8.
The operation, a sweep of one of the most dangerous areas of the city known as the Souq, prominently featured the Iraqi Army and is proof of the increasing abilities and growing confidence of the local soldiers, said 2nd Lt. Chris Hopkins, 4th Platoon Commander, Company I.
“We went through a couple of weeks where we conducted our business and really concentrated on training the Iraqi soldiers,” said Hopkins from their base at the Government Center. “The more we go out with the Iraqi Army, the more the people see that the terrorists can’t uphold their threats. With the increased abilities of the IA, we hope the people will realize that the future of their city is in their hands.”
With the elections nearing, it was important for the people to have faith in their local government and feel comfortable in their security to attend the voting sites, said Hopkins. That’s been a big reason for the operations in the city, he said.
“We are always looking for the enemy, we want to find and destroy as many weapons caches as we can,” he said. “And if we can’t find them, we want to force the insurgency to move them. If they are concentrating on us instead of making improvised explosive devices, then we are being successful in our mission here.”
In addition to the extra firepower the Iraqi soldiers bring with them, the Marines are learning that the IA soldiers are often able to find hidden rooms and tell when locals are hiding something more easily due to their extensive knowledge of the culture.
“The Iraqi soldiers grew up here, they know the people and in some cases, the city,” he said. “They know how the houses should be and can tell when they have false walls and floors, helping us find hidden weapons that we would otherwise miss. During Skinner, we found at least one building with a false wall, and in another shop we found weapons hidden in back shelves under business supplies. This last mission wouldn’t have been as successful as it was without them with us.”