Weapons Company makes name in recently tamed East Ramadi

By Lance Cpl. Charles E. McKelvey, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

RAMADI, Iraq (Dec. 18, 2007) -- As the Anbar Province continues to make strides in the direction of progress, Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment, are doing their part in the final region of Anbar to join the Awakening.

East Ramadi, an area littered with palm trees, farm land and small towns, offers a different challenge for Weapons Company than its fellow companies in Ramadi.

“This area is much different than what the Marines in the city are dealing with,” said Capt. Matthew J. Martin, Weapons Company commander, 2nd Bn., 8th Marines. “There’s a lot more open space and instead of insurgents stashing weapons or setting up sniper positions inside a city building, they have vast fields where they can hide weapons or stage attacks on coalition forces.”

Weapons Company’s area of operation is home to more than 90,000 Iraqi citizens, close to the same amount of people each of the rifle companies in the city are responsible for. With a more spread out area to cover and the same amount of people, Weapons Company resorts to regular mounted and dismounted patrols, keeping a watchful eye on the population.

“This part of Ramadi was the last to stop fighting,” said Martin. “Regular security patrols conducted by Marines and Iraqi Police are critical in keeping peace in this area.”

Besides keeping peace in the region, the security patrols also have another benefit. They provide integration between Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces and provide invaluable on-the-job training.

“One of the things we are really pushing is having Marines work side by side with the Iraqi Police,” said Martin. “Every one of our positions, starting with the entry control point all the way up to our rooftop positions, that provide us with 360 degree security, and our (command operations center), all have IPs sitting right beside Marines. The intent of that is 24/7 on-the-job training.”

As the trend with the rest of Iraq, Weapons Company’s patrols are aimed at helping reconstruct the area while still providing security. While on patrol, the Marines of Weapons Company conduct censuses, interact with the civilians and provide any other special services the Marines can accomplish.

One of the special services the patrols provide is having a corpsman treat villagers for minor medical conditions.

“These people could go to the local hospital, but most of them either choose not to go or can’t afford to,” said Seaman Apprentice Brenden T. Colla, corpsman, Mobile Assault Platoon. “I see, on average, about three people each time we go on patrol,” said Colla who belongs to Weapons Company, 2nd Bn., 8th Marines

Colla, who treats most common injuries, colds and coughs, broken bones, burns and abrasions said the hardest part about providing the medical aid is dealing with the language barrier.

“When I have to get someone’s symptoms, the language barrier presents a real big problem. It’s difficult to get all the information I need and sometimes I have to guess using my experience what I think is wrong with the person,” said Colla.

On one particular trip, Colla treated a young girl who had a severe burn covering one third of her right arm. The girl, who lived in a village along Route Cyprus, was unable to receive medical attention prior to seeing the corpsman.

“In many situations like this one, there’s only so much I can do for them on the spot,” said Colla. “I use what I have, which most of the time is bandages and pain medicine.”

While medical attention is given, the rest of the Marines are busy with goals of their own, some finding out what can done to help the townspeople.

“When we stop we ask a lot of questions,” said Cpl. Andrew D Spicer, section leader, Mobile Assault Platoon. “We want to find out what the people need, and what can make their lives better.”

The answers are commonly the same, water and electricity.

“The people need these basic things,” said Spicer. “And we do what we can for them. By providing them with things such as water and electricity will, in the future, allow them to provide for themselves.”

Providing for themselves is the end goal of the mission. This starts with the IP policing their own and continues all the way down to new schools, roads and working utilities.

“Driving through the area, you can see there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Spicer. “We have many projects going on throughout the area, reconstructing the area, and for that the locals are grateful.”