AR RAMADI, Iraq -- The patrol almost screams to a stop, with humvees speeding past the targeted vehicle only to turn suddenly and cordon off the traffic while Marines and Iraqi soldiers quickly climb out and secure the area. While the selected vehicle is rapidly emptied and searched thoroughly, another squad searches the occupants for anything that might link them to the insurgency and asks them if they have information that could prove helpful.
It’s called a snap vehicle checkpoint and it has become a successful deterrent against an enemy that blends into the local populace and continues to practice hit-and-run tactics against the Marines and Iraqi Army forces in the city. By randomly selecting vehicles during both heavy and light traffic periods, the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment are showing the insurgents left in the city that they are never safe – even during their morning commute, according to 2nd Lt. Mauro Mujica, the platoon commander for Weapons Platoon, Company L.
“We try to push out five to seven days a week,” he said. “It keeps the main routes of the city clear and keeps the insurgents on their toes. Even if we go out and don’t capture anything, it helps keep the streets clean.”
In addition to the obvious benefits of keeping the streets clear of explosives and keeping the enemy off main routes through the city, these snap VCPs give the residents of Ramadi a chance to see the progress their Iraqi soldiers are making here.
“It’s good for the Iraqi people to see an Iraqi face in their security forces,” said Mujica. “The people need to see that their government and military are doing things for them, that they are working to improve the country.”
When it comes to the Iraqi Army though, the experience they gain by conducting missions with the oversight of the Marines is invaluable. The IA is able to gain the skills and confidence needed to take over responsibility by conducting operations under hostile conditions.
“When we started doing these missions with the Iraqis, we were a little nervous to be working with them out in the streets,” he said. “But they have proved themselves over the last three months and are constantly improving. They also teach us things every once in a while. They are more familiar with local people and the culture and can tell when something is wrong and needs to be checked out.
“The IA is extremely motivated to get out and do these types of missions and others. They want to train and get better and do their part in the struggle for freedom here.”