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03-05-07, 09:11 AM #1
2nd LAR invests months into Iraq's future
The Marines of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., operate in several strategic regions of Rawah, Iraq. Their area of operations is in the northern sector of Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, the designated area of Multi-National Force – West and the current home of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force (forward).
The Marines of Company D, Weapons Platoon are nearing their six-month anniversary of days invested into improving the city’s security, economy and transition to stability. The progress they have made is evident in the city around them as well as the Marines themselves.
“Our mission here is to make Rawah safer for the people so they can live in peace,” said Cpl. Andrew Roberson, a native of Blue Springs, Miss. and team leader. “They shouldn’t have to worry about walking down the road and having an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) go off.”
Roberson’s post, known as “Yankee One,” was used as a courthouse during Sadaam’s regime. It hosts sturdy, cool-blue concrete walls reinforced by thousands of sandbags, many meters of mortar barriers and constant guards both inside and outside its concrete and marble floors. Any reminisce of past judicial proceedings have evaporated, and the structure now serves as home to a gaggle of young, ambitious infantrymen who run tight patrol operations through the city multiple times a day to establish a military presence, providing a sense of security to the local citizens.
Time has changed. The Marines of LAR were assigned to live in areas of the city where, five months ago, were considered among the most unstable in the area.
“We got here, and it was definitely shunned upon,” said Lance Cpl. Steven McAndrew of Loveland, Oh., an infantryman assigned to a nearby Iraqi Police station. “They did not like us. We didn’t get much intel from them, and not much cooperation, either.”
Hesitation and dirty looks from the civilian populace of Rahwah are now a thing of the past.
“Now that we’ve been here for almost six months, there’s been a complete turnaround. We’re getting huge civilian cooperation and they’re all about helping us out,” said McAndrew.
Roberson added he also noticed a sharp increase in citizens willing to join Iraqi Police forces.
“When I first got here, there were, like, four IPs,” he said. “Now, there are more than 40.”
Roberson additionally noted in his tour, the Iraqis have established public transportation to schools in Anah, conducted city beautification projects, constructed new buildings and established city counsels with the help of their American counterparts.
“I wasn’t expecting a complete turnaround like that,” confessed Cpl. Adam Moudy, a native of Anderson, S.C., also living at the IP station
The road to success in the Rawah area hasn’t been paved for the Marines who were strangers living amidst a busy city with hundreds of nearby buildings to hide attackers and thousands of windows that pose the threat of sniper fire. The young men of LAR became accustomed to long hours, complex attacks and dirty laundry, following the legend of all war fighters before them.
As the Marines conducted patrols throughout their sectors of the city, they established and maintained a strong military presence. According to Cpl. Nick Vaughan, 21, from Newport News, Va., that was enough to get the ball rolling.
“We found out that if you’re out in the city talking to people, they’re less likely to blow you up,” he said. “If you hide in your building, they’ll most likely attack you.”
“We still find an (Improvised Explosive Device) every now and then, but we have the city on lockdown and we’re definitely setting up the next unit who comes here for success,” said Cpl. Robert Vales, a mortarman from LaGuardia, N.Y.
While the city of Rawah still has much work to be done, there has been a solid foundation of successes implemented by the Marines who spent the last few months living there. And, as the Marines of 2nd LAR wait to return home, they feel confident about the future of the city they once called home.
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