KARMAH, Iraq --
Marines with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, started operations in a cluster of villages north of Karmah, Iraq, in one of the last insurgent staging grounds in Anbar Province, Sept. 7.
“(This area has) been a place we thought as definitely having the most enemy, and from some of the information we’ve gathered through locals, (insurgents) establish patrol bases here just like we do. So, I guess it’s just being here at the right time and hopefully sneaking up on them,” said 1st Lt. Nick C. Smith, a platoon commander.
The Marines of Kilo Co. moved into one of the villages where a local sheik invited them to establish an outpost for their operation in his own home. From there, the Marines ran security patrols, conducted atmospherics, built rapport with the people of the village and established a local Iraqi community watch security force for the area.
“Most of it was just … talking to people, gathering intelligence on the local area, the local leadership, what the insurgents tend to do, their habits and how they react to when we come out,” said Cpl. Matthew L. Hathaway, 21-year-old, Lancaster Co., Va., native, and squad leader for third platoon.
A majority of the houses in the village were found recently abandoned prior to the Marines arrival, a strong indicator of insurgent activity.
“We came out here hoping to get a piece of the bad guys, but they all fled,” Smith said. “At first, we were concerned we were going to be in a gun fight, then we get here and nobody is here. There was some concern. It makes you worry about booby traps and things of that nature.”
As the Marines patrolled, they spoke with locals about their concerns to gather information on enemy activity and gauge the attitude among the locals toward the terrorists.
“We found some people that were pretty apt to give us information and that’s hard to find out here,” said Hathaway, a 2004 graduate of Lancaster High School. “We found out some names of some local people who were working with the insurgents. That’s going to help us develop some target packages so that we can get them out of the area and dealt with through the justice system.”
Hathaway explained that the most important weapon in a counterinsurgency fight like this is having the people on your side.
“I feel like it went real well,” Hathaway said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of intelligence on the area before we started so every little bit counts. We got a good amount of intelligence from the operation. Contact with the people went outstanding. They really accepted us well. They told us they like the way we treated them and they were real respectful toward us and we were respectful toward them. They were pretty open about giving us information and letting us know how the area was doing.”