DHARI AL MALA, Iraq (Dec. 6, 2008) --
Wiping out insurgents along the Syrian border continued when a new partnership was formed that could give Coalition Forces another edge over the insurgency.
The Military Police Platoon here with Combat Logistics Company 19, 1st Marine Logistics Group, has reached out to the local populace to gather intelligence on insurgent activity in their area and in turn have gained a valuable ally.
For some communities, like the Al Mahallawi and the Al Dulaimi tribes here, MP Plt. Marines are the first servicemembers they have interacted with in more than a year.
Earlier this week, the Marines conducted their first foot patrol through the village of Dhari al Mala where villagers greeted them and welcomed them in as “new friends.”
“They consider us neighbors now,” said 1st Lt. Justin P. Hatcher, 27, from Lawton, Ok., platoon commander for MP Plt. “They’re more than willing to keep us safe and protect us just as we protect them.”
Marines spoke with the village leaders and collected reliable testimony from villagers who promised to keep them informed of insurgent activity in the area. During their visit, Sheik Hannawy invited them into his home. Like any good host, he fed them his best food and fired up the electricity, something they only have for two hours a day.
“It was the highlight of my deployment, hands down,” said 2nd Lt. James E. King, 25, platoon commander for Transportation Support Plt., CLC-19.
“It was a good starting point to build up a relationship with these people,” said King, from Crozet, Va. After their visit with the locals, they were assured that if “strangers did come to their village, (Marines) would be the first to know.”
During their initial visit, several of the children at the school were asking for their pens. This inspired Marines to help them out during their next visit.
With their presence in the village known and welcomed, they made a second visit to their new counterparts as a sign of good will.
“They seemed friendly and really approachable,” said Cpl. Paulino T. Grajeda, 20, from Avanal, Calif., vehicle commander with MP Plt. “I think they have a good outlook on the military, and that we’re out here to actually help them.”
As a sign of support, the Marines brought school supplies for the children and introduced the sheik to the CLC-19 Commanding Officer, 1st Lt. Joe Maddux, 34, from St. Augustine, Fla.
During their introduction with the village leaders, one of the villagers approached the group with a sick child.
“One of the little kids had basic flu symptoms,” said Seaman Nick A. Powell, 24, from San Antonio, Texas, a corpsman with MP Plt.
Powell gave more medical supplies to the sheik so he could help treat his people if any other medical problems arose. Marines handed school supplies to the leaders, who in turn passed them out to children, who ran up to greet the Marines with smiles and waves.
Once the Marines distributed the supplies, they left knowing they had a stronger ally with their neighbors.
“I think building rapport with the surrounding villages helps not only us but them,” said 1st Sgt. Stephen W. Muller, first sergeant, CLC-19. “It makes them more comfortable (around us.)”
The success of the new partnership at Dhari al Mala will hopefully promote more teamwork in the area.
“I think we need to (go to) every village around here, stuff like that is what wins the hearts and minds,” said Muller, 39, from Boyce, La.
With a strong bond with the locals and a constant presence of Marines, it’s only a matter of time before the insurgency has nowhere to hide.
“When we do make it out of here, they will all have a better understanding of what we’re here for, and that we’re not bullies,” Muller said.
The MP Plt. plans to visit their new colleagues frequently and to continue building the rapport they have with the locals, which is vital to their mission.
“They said we’re welcome anytime,” Hatcher said.
The MP Plt. is responsible for the security of Sahl Sinjar. They have several posts around the base which provide 24-hour security and they now have a new set of eyes in the north.
CLC-19’s support of Marines fighting along the border will continue. With their new partnership in the surrounding villages, it may be only a matter of time before insurgent activity here is wiped out completely.