BAGHDADI, Iraq -- The palm groves here were filled with members of the Iraqi Army on patrol recently during an operation to seek out insurgent activity in the area.
Their mission, which was supported by Marines from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, was to sweep the area of caches and weapons, while establishing a sense of security within the hearts and minds of the local populous.
"The operation was mainly a clear and sweep mission,” said 1st Lt. Andrew R. Howard, an intelligence advisor for the Military Transition Team. “We started south of Baghdadi, and pushed down along the river.”
Marines walked alongside the IA through cliffs, villages and palm groves utilizing the training they had received to discover any hidden caches.
Iraqi locals cheered for the Iraqi Army and Marines patrolling by. The relationships created during the sweep may have been a simple hello, or supplies being given to locals, but the Marines are hopeful the Iraqis will realize the Iraqi Army and coalition forces are here to help.
"Having the Iraqi Army with us is a huge benefit,” said Howard. “They know the language, and have a closer relationship with the public. They are able to spot when things are out of place.”
The Iraqi Army soldiers have come a long way in their training, according to Howard, and will soon be able to assume independent patrols.
“The operation was a test to see if they can be actively combat efficient,” said Howard. “They planned the execution, logistics, and coordination of the entire movement, while we provided the minimal support needed.”
As the patrol reached the end point, the Iraqi Army was praised for a job well done. They then loaded into trucks and headed back to rest after a full day of patrolling.
The improvements from the sweep have been noted, but training will continue until the team feels the Iraqi Army can function completely independent.
According to Howard, this goal is definitely in sight, but they have not quite reached the point they are heading for.