SAQLAWIYAH, IRAQ --
The Marines of Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, and local Iraqi Police swept through the farmlands outside Habbaniyah, Iraq, while conducting Operation Street Sweeper II, Aug. 28-30, to rid the area of insurgents and their deadly tools.
“We are sweeping through the roads, houses and fields of our area of operation for anything suspicious,” said Cpl. Brian L. Pauluchuk, a team leader with 1st platoon, Company C. “We are trying to find any weapons caches or IEDs.”
The Marines woke in the middle of the night and rode in armored trucks to the operations start point. Arriving in the darkness, wearing full combat gear, night-vision goggles and carrying food and water for the coming days, the Marines were ready for what lay ahead.
Sgt. Luke A. Horkey, the squad leader of 1st squad, 2nd platoon, assembled his men and inspected them before the long trek. He explained the history of the area and why the operation was vital.
“This type of close contact operation is long overdue in an area that hasn’t been patrolled long enough by (other Coalition Forces),” said the 25-year-old Plainfield, Conn., native. “If you let something sit long enough it will fester, especially in Iraq.”
Horkey, who is on his third deployment, led his squad through the communities, farms, fields, markets and to each and every house, searching for signs of insurgent activity.
The Marines of Company C swept through miles of sweltering heat and dangerous territory.
“We always get out on foot to patrol,” said Pauluchuk, a Boca Raton, Fla., native. “Even if that means we are risking our lives, it also means we will be more successful.”
Foot patrols are a preferred method of moving through an AO, not only because it brings the Marines face to face with the local populous, but also because the Marines are given a closer look at their AO, its terrain, its people and any indications of enemy activity.
“Dismounted patrols allow the Marines to learn everything about their AO,” said 2nd Lt. Jared V. Hidalgo, the commander of 2nd platoon. “The can see all of the little paths, landmarks, so they can better predict enemy movement, enemy hot spots and IED placement.”
There was another determined element involved in the operation; the local Iraqi Police, who also conducted mounted and dismounted patrols. These local men traveled up and down the roads, searching markets and villages for people they recognized as wanted insurgents.
Although the main objective of the operation was to clear the area of insurgents and the dangers they pose to both Coalition Forces and Iraqi civilians, it also achieved another important objective. By conducting the operation, it allowed the Marines and IPs time in the local community, meeting the citizens and building a rapport with the Iraqi population. This rapport develops into the peace and progression that will allow the transition of responsibility in the Al Anbar province back to the local Iraqis.
“We create a presence when (the locals) see us patrolling and meeting with these families,” said Horkey, 25. “It lets them know that their own people, the IPs are stepping up to defend them and I think eventually if we keep this up, this area will become peaceful once again.”