COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq, --
Third Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion recently accepted control of the western Euphrates River valley surrounding Rawah and Anah, and relieved 1st LAR in support of Regimental Combat Team 2.
This year marks the Wolfpack’s fourth deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and their second trip to the Rawah area in the western Al Anbar Province.
Company A, known as Apache, has assumed responsibility for patrols and the security of the city, and continues to share a joint living area and working relationship with the city’s police force.
“We are continuing the idea of; by, with, and through the Iraqis,” said Lt. Col. James R. Parrington, the Wolfpack’s commanding officer. “We work very closely with the Iraqi forces because it puts a visible face on the security effort in town. We are here not only to coach and mentor in patrolling techniques, but to also show the public their own forces are doing the work.”
The Minneapolis native went on to say the policemen in the area have come a long way in their training and they understand their duties to ‘protect and serve’ the community.
“By and large, what we have is a good corps of policemen here. Policemen as you would think of them in the U.S.,” he said.
Many of Apache’s Marines are surprised by how well the Iraqi police force does its job, in contrast to horror stories they have heard in the past.
“It’s truly a safe environment, considering where we are,” said Cpl. Michael J. Conto, a fire team leader with the company. “The IPs are doing great and the relationship we have is going well for everyone. Some of these guys have only been here for six or seven months and they’re already helping out the junior guys in the company.”
One of the new techniques the Wolfpack brought with them from Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command 29 Palms, Calif., was the rolling snap vehicle checkpoint.
“Its kind of like a quickie VCP with a hug afterward,” laughs Cpl. Matthew R. Boeck, a patrol leader, after checking a vehicle. “While on patrol, we will randomly snatch up vehicles, thoroughly search them, document the passengers, check IDs, and afterward, we apologize for the inconvenience and explain it’s for their safety. Most of the civilians really don’t mind it, and we’ve even made some friends.”
Almost as if on cue, an Iraqi teenager runs up to the patrol and shakes everyone’s hand, using nearly perfect English to ask the Marines how they are doing, and thanking them for their work.
“See,” explained Boeck, a Milwaukee native, “This happens all the time. We meet with store owners, parents, kids, and know people on a first-name basis. We can walk down the road and a local will run up, yell my name, and shake my hand. This never would have happened in OIF I, and that’s progress. There are people back home who live on my block, even in my building, that I don’t know by name.”
The Wolfpack and Apache, which has set an initial goal of 600 patrols a month, plan to continue the close relationship with local citizens in hopes of completely eliminating the threat of insurgency and firmly establishing a safe environment for provincial Iraqi control.