HIT, Iraq -- The Raiders of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, along with members of the Iraqi Army continue patrolling to keep the streets and market safe for citizens here.
After recently taking over responsibility of the area from 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines are patrolling the area to become familiar with the region and show the citizens they are here to make the streets safe.
“We just want to get out there and interact with the locals to get to know them and to get to know the area,” said Sgt. Dominic A. Franco, a squad leader for Company I and Santa Rosa, Calif., native. “This way we can adapt to the area and do a better job.”
Adapting to a new area can be difficult. However, for the Raiders, experience helps when getting adjusted to a new environment. Since a large number of the Marines are on their second or third deployment to Iraq, the process is much quicker because they know what works, said Capt. Timothy R. Strabbing, the company’s executive officer.
“The experience we brought to the area is a huge advantage for us. It will help keep the area safe and help us to teach the IA how to operate.” said the Hudsonville, Mich., native. “Hopefully we will work ourselves out of a job and the IA will have the skills to operate by themselves.”
Along with keeping the area safe, another mission for the battalion is training the IA so they can operate independently. The IA is there on every patrol to learn from the Marines and provide a translator and liaison to the citizens.
“The IA is really good to have with you on patrol,” said Lance Cpl. Eric Zermeno, a rifleman with the company and Santa Ana, Calif., native. “They are really professional and know what they need to do out on patrol with us.”
“It is a real positive thing to see. The Iraqi Army has become a lot more proficient since we were out here last time,” added Strabbing.
While patrolling with the IA helps communication between the Marines and citizens, another communication tool the Marines use is something as small as a piece of candy. As they walked through the neighborhoods and marketplace, Marines handed out sweets to the children, showing the parents they care about the community.
“By just doing stuff like handing out candy to the kids, the older people see that and they will hopefully like us more or even help us out by telling us where the bad guys are,” said Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake, a platoon radio operator for the company and Battle Ground, Wash., native.
To prepare themselves when operating in these areas, the Marines spent many months doing patrols much like these and field exercises to practice scenarios they are now encountering. However, no training can make up for one thing that many of the Marines already have… experience.
“I think the experience the Marines have is the best training tool they use out here,” commented Franco. “There is no better training than experiencing the real thing.”
With a limited time for the company to accomplish numerous goals, the main focus is to put the responsibility of their areas back in the hands of the Iraqi people. This will help the Iraqi people to be self-governing and eventually accountable for their own security and stability, according to Strabbing.
Strabbing added, “The longer our presence is here, the closer the Iraqi people come to being able to do things by themselves, which is what democracy is all about.”