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Marines prepare ICDC for Iraqi control

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 5/20/2004

Story by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen

ABU GHARIB, Iraq(May 17, 2004) -- Marines in the shadow of the city housing the prison by the same name are carrying out a quiet and essential mission to turn over Iraq's responsibility back to Iraqis.

Marines of Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment recently shifted their focus from destroying enemy holdouts to training Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers for joint missions in presence patrols and locating enemy holdouts.

"Our mission now is patrols, searching out and finding the enemy," said 1st Lt. Matthew Custance, the executive officer of Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. "Our focus is the major urban area just to our west, which is Nassir Wa Al Salaam."

Custance said the Marines were more concerned with actions in nearby Fallujah than the recent investigations into allegations of prisoner abuse at the nearby detention facility.

"When Fallujah flared up, it flared up here as well," Custance said. "It's not as dangerous anymore, but we can tell who likes us and who doesn't."

Custance said his Marines occasionally get rocks thrown at them by kids and adult's still display bitterness to U.S. presence.

"We have a full plate, but we're running permanent patrol bases out in town and in open areas with India Company," said Custance, of ICDC's Company I. "We do both foot patrols and vehicle mounts, and sometimes we'll combine them."

Regular joint-patrols provided positive results for the Marines. That's led to the success of the integration of Marines and Iraqi soldiers, said Capt. Will Dickens, the company's commanding officer from Murfreesboro, N.C.

"The ICDC has helped us pacify the local populace when we're out on these patrols," Dickens said. "We've been very successful."

Custance said Marines were forced to make some changes within the Iraqi company chain of command, prior to extending further Marine-ICDC integration.

"We replaced the Iraqi company commander and first sergeant because they conducted unethical and illegal acts," Custance explained.

Since the new change of command, though, 30 more Iraqi recruits were added to the roster, bringing the Iraqi company's number to about 160.

"We had 48 soldiers join us a few days ago and they're still here," said Staff Sgt. Willie J. Favrs, a 34-year-old from Whitesburg, Ga. "The word is passed through the city by the ICDC and then they just come in and get signed up."

The integration takes the Marines one step closer to the expected turnover of full sovereignty to Iraq June 30. Custance said the Marines will continue their focus until they return home.

"We've been here since March 15, and we intend to stay until the job's done," Custance said. "We're pushing the Marines hard, but we have to continue keeping the prison safe, and getting the enemy out of Nassir Wa Al Salaam until we leave."

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