2/8 Echo keeps the streets of Al Kut safe

23 Apr 2003 | Cpl. Matthew Orr

The day for E Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment began as it has for the past few days here. The Marines on foot patrols, keeping the streets of Al Kut safe. The warriors go on numerous daily patrols to show a presence, which also gives them time to interact with the local residents."Right now the Marines are doing presence patrols, which lets the leadership in the area know that we are here and to also gain confidence with the locals," said Gunnery Sergeant Steve Cutrer, Company Gunnery Sergeant, E Company, 2/8. The patrols also serve another purpose. "We are also here to get a general sentiment of the people, to see if they are still giving us the thumbs up or the thumbs down, so to speak, " said Cpl. Patrick S. Davis, mortar section leader, Weapons Platoon, E Company, 2/8. Currently, two platoons are actively patrolling and one platoon is on reserve. The patrols average about two hours in duration and require the Marines to walk a designated area of the city. "Eight patrols are usually conducted in the daylight hours and two to four in the night," said Cutrer, a Newton, Texas native.The patrol routes are based on intelligence gathered from civil affairs Marines and others in the community gathering information."A lot of the patrols, in this city particularly, have been directed by the civilian population, based on the intelligence that we have been gathering," said Cutrer. Also while on the patrols the Marines search buildings for possible weapons caches. The Marines have located numerous caches since the fighting has decreased. Recently the Marines also found over 100 computers were supposed to have gone to classrooms. After talking to a teacher at the school, Marines learned the computers would have probably found their way to the black market.The teacher was asked when she had seen the computers in the classrooms, and her reply was, "never.""What we did was probably stop a huge black market sale," said Cutrer. Weapons caches have been found in buildings all over the city."Almost every weapons cache we have found has either been in a hospital, a school or in another public gathering area," said Cutrer. Another important benefit of the roving foot patrols: better interaction with residents."The more we go out on the patrols, the more trust we gain with the residents," said Davis. "The children have really taken to us, and they love to get their photograph taken with you." On a patrol recently, Marines came across a man with severe burns to his left hand."We were walking through the streets, and we saw a guy who had really bad third-degree burns," said Davis, who hails from Baker, Fla. "We bandaged his hand up, and everybody around could see that we were here to help. We then came back that same night with an interpreter who told the man where he could go to get further help." "Just the fact that we came back to help that same guy really impressed a lot of people, and gave the people the realization that we are here to help them," recalls Davis.With the fighting of the war over, the process of rebuilding the community has begun. "Right now from what we have seen, the community has really taken well to us," said Cutrer. "When the Marines see the children getting help and getting food, their morale pops right up, and they know their purpose here is incredibly necessary."