Polish prepare take over in southern Iraq

24 Jul 2003 | Spc. Benjamin R. Kibbey

As the Marines, sailors and soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment prepare to return home, they are making sure that international forces replacing them have everything they need to succeed.

The coalition forces preparing to take over responsibility in Karbala, Iraq are going on patrols, meeting with local officials, and gleaning knowledge of what has made the Marines so successful in this Muslim holy city.

Part of the coalition's role in Karbala is overseeing fuel pipelines and stopping the movement of stolen ordinance along the back roads outside the city. To learn the ropes, troops from the Polish advance party participated in a patrol in those areas the night of July 24 to observe the Marines' work first hand.

"They were very inquisitive," said Marine Cpl. Brian Warner, from Fairmount, Ind., a team leader with Headquarters and Support Company.  "They wanted to learn our job and what we do so they could take over our job once we leave."

The Marines were impressed with the performance of the Polish-all officers-as they encountered and searched several vehicles.

"They were very professional, and they listened to us," said Warner.  "Even though we had officers with us, they listened to the enlisted orders.  They were very inquisitive, and they had many questions for us."

"They're pretty thorough," said Army Sgt. Michael Hoffman, a civil affairs sergeant with the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Green Bay, Wis.  "They take their jobs very seriously.  A couple vehicles that they searched - there wasn't an inch of that vehicle that they didn't look through."

Though the diesel pipeline is dry in the Karbala sector-having been drained for Iraqi use further south-there are other pipelines carrying crude oil, gasoline, and other fuels. The road along the pipeline is a popular route for those stealing ordinance from a former Iraqi ammo supply point near the southern town of Najaf.

"Before the war, they capped both ends of the diesel pipeline to use it as a storage tank," said Army Staff Sgt. John D. Craemer, 35, a Green Bay, Wis. native who is a member of the battalion's fuel team.  "We checked it in a couple spots, and there appears to be no fuel, but because of the ammo supply point at the end of 3/7's battle space, near Najaf, there are usually some guys that are up to no good on that road."

During the patrol, the Marines, sailors, soldiers and Polish officers located and identified expended armor piercing tank rounds, which where setting on the side of the road, as well as stopped a pick-up truck carrying 57mm anti-aircraft rounds that were suspected of being stolen from the ammunition point.

The Polish officers were integral in quickly identifying the ordinance in both situations, the Marines said.

"There's ammo all over this country, it's everywhere, and any chance we get to stop a couple guys from causing harm to coalition forces, that's great," said Craemer.  "I think you just have to assume they're taking it for hostile reasons."

Lt. Rafat Molis, a native of Supsk, Poland and leader of the Polish team on the patrol, noted the condition of the anti-aircraft rounds, and said it was likely they were taken for the explosive compound inside.

The explosive material can be melted in boiling water and formed into any shape for use in bombs, he said.

He noted the importance of patrols like this for the well being of the people of Karbala and the coalition forces.

"The patrols are necessary to ensure the protection of the pipeline and the people," he said.  "The patrols are good for finding out information so they can go back and tell others and warn them about what is going on and learn."