FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, are manning a new observation post along one of the most violent streets in Iraq named after one of their own who was killed in the line of duty.
The observation post, or OP, is named after Lance Cpl. Jeremy S. Shock, a 22-year-old machine gunner from Cincinnati, assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, who was killed by an improvised explosive device Nov. 19, 2006. The OP sits near a major highway that runs through downtown Fallujah.
“It means a lot to man this post since it is named after Lance Cpl. Shock. All of us in Weapons Company knew Shock, and he was a great guy,” said Lance Cpl. Cody Mager, a 22-year-old machine gunner from Ashland, Ohio. “I wish we never had to name an observation post after him, but I am proud that I can man this post in his honor.”
The vicinity near OP Shock has been a hot spot for insurgent activity. It has been riddled with IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.
Since the establishment of the post, the amount of insurgent activity in the area has dropped dramatically, and the Marines manning OP Shock are determined to keep it that way.
“Each post has a designated area that we must keep an eye on for any insurgent activity,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Ribant, 22, a rifleman with 1/24 and a Washington, Mich., native. “We have manned posts for a while, so we have a general idea as to how the people act in this area. So when we see them make a dramatic change to their daily routines we report it.”
The road is much safer now, not only for Coalition Forces, but for the citizens of Fallujah, said Staff Sgt. Jason R. Hart, platoon commander for the Personal Security Detachment of 1/24. The PSD is tasked with providing a security detail for the battalion staff.
Children were recently spotted playing soccer near OP Shock. In the 6 months I have been here, I never saw that. Only a week after it was constructed they started, and I continue to see them playing,” said Hart, 29, who added that it is much safer for the residents and Marines traveling through the area.
Shock covers a pivotal area for both Marine and ISF convoys.
“It is definitely a lot of work, but I feel that this OP is one of our company’s best accomplishments,” said Lance Cpl. James Burnett, a 23-year-old radio operator from Bartlesville, Okla. “We put in a ton of work building this OP, and now manning the posts and ensuring the safety of any convoy. I am really proud of that.”
The OP wasn’t built from the ground up like some of the other posts that Marines from the battalion are currently manning. The building now home to a platoon of Marines used to be an apartment complex, home to several families.
The people living in the apartments were refugees from Baghdad coming to Fallujah to flee the increase in violence that has plagued the capital of Iraq.
“The families in the apartment building didn’t have anywhere to go, especially two hours after curfew, and they didn’t have a lot of family in Fallujah. With a mission like setting up an OP, we couldn’t give much notice to the (displaced) families,” said Maj. Clay A. Plummer, a 36-year-old battalion staff judge advocate. “We couldn’t give them notice, but as Marines do, we did the right thing.”
The battalion made plans to relocate the families and compensate them financially for the inconveniences of the move. The families were placed in housing that was in better condition than the apartment complex, said Plummer.
“When we showed up most of the people weren’t upset about the move, they had smiles on their faces once they realized they were being moved to another location, with their belongings, and were going to be compensated,” he said.
The fact that the families moved to Fallujah from Baghdad to escape sectarian violence is a reflection of the hard work of Coalition Forces and Iraqi Security Forces in Al Anbar. It is also a sign the effort 1/24 has poured into keeping unwanted elements out of the city is paying off.
“Our battalion controls the entry control points coming into Fallujah and we are keeping the ethnic violence between Sunni and Shia out of the city, and the fact it is working is a good thing,” said Plummer.