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1/23 Marines patrol Iraqi villages, ensure security prior to elections

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200511354158
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht

AR RAMADI, Iraq (Jan 13, 2005) -- Handfuls of Iraqi children greeted the Marine patrol as it wound along muddy farm fields joining a quiet, palm tree-lined village. Handing out candy and a few soccer balls on the windy day, a few Marines traded friendly waves and clowning smiles as they marched along with the movement of their platoon.

Like their predecessors in previous conflicts, today’s Marine infantry in Iraq are reinforcing a good relationship between government and local civilians with foot patrols on the front lines of an insurgency.

The value of ‘boots on the ground’ patrolling operations is helping ensure security in Iraq prior to elections January 30.

“The main objective behind our patrols is to simply make a presence, police the area, improve relations and gather intelligence from sources about any insurgent activity in the area,” said Staff Sgt. William R. Gilman, 1st platoon commander, Company B, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, and a 33-year-old from Dallas. “Before this country can hold elections, it’s important that we help make the population feel more safe and secure. Villagers may be hesitant to go to the polls if they feel terrorists could attack them or their children. In addition to other operations, by patrolling on a frequent basis we are sending more than just a message of order and security.”

As part of the patrols, the efforts of Marine human intelligence teams and Arabic interpreters work to facilitate cooperation and understanding between the Marines and village leaders.

While visiting friendly contacts, village leaders and schools, the Marine reservists of “Bravo” Co. are also handing out more than sweets, toys and other supplies as they accomplish their mission.

“Hopefully our patrols spread more goodwill and show the Iraqi people that we—not the terrorists—are their best friends,” said 30-year-old Sgt. Kyle McCracken, squad leader, 1st platoon, “Bravo” Co., 1/23, and a native of Van, Texas.

Following recent terrorist attacks on Iraqi police and the insurgency’s voter intimidation campaign against civilians, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s said Jan. 11 that certain parts of his country may yet remain unsafe for nationwide polls.

The constant presence of the Marines on patrol is a potent step for success, ensuring regional security and the freedom of the Iraqi people.

“Whenever we come out here on patrol the kids are especially happy to see us,” said Pfc. William Marsh, rifleman and radio operator for 1st platoon, “Bravo” Co., 1/23, and a 19-year-old student from Katy, Texas. “We’re making a powerful stamp on the successful future of Iraq and that’s why it’s important for us to be here.”

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