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Photo By: Cpl. Joseph DiGirolamo 20060620-M-008D-000

Photo by Cpl. Joseph Digirolamo

Ramadi plus Marines equals progress

19 Jul 2006 | Cpl. Joseph Digirolamo

Lance Cpl. Brandon R. Musser is just one of many Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment patrolling the streets of one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq while wearing 50 plus pounds of armor under a scorching sun.

And he and his comrades are doing it with no complaints.

On June 20, Musser and other Marines with 3rd Platoon, Company L, conducted snap vehicle check points during a patrol in the capital of Al Anbar province. Marines were on the look out for suspicious activity while disrupting insurgent movement through the city.

“We just went out and did some snap VCPs and patrolled the area to get a feel for the local population,” said Musser, a 20-year-old from Manchester, Pa.

During the patrol, Marines were vigilant of each road and the passengers in the vehicles they passed. At a moment’s notice the humvees came to a halt and Marines hopped out of their armored vehicles to search for possible threats.

“The Marines checked the vehicles to see if Iraqi citizens were carrying anything that could harm or put coalition forces in danger,” said Lance Cpl. William A. Staley.

“We want to keep a strong presence out there,” said Staley, 24, of Lockport, N.Y. “Most of the population cooperates and doesn’t give us any problems, despite the language barrier.”

Even with a high sniper and roadside bomb threat, Staley has a simple approach when involved in vehicle check points.

“Get it out, check it out, and get it over with,” said Staley.

However, patrolling the mean streets in Ramadi does have its rewards.

“The kids come out and cheer us on and wave at us,” said Musser, “We give them some candy, soccer balls and other knick knacks. They’re friendly to us so we’re friendly to them,” he added.

On top of countless vehicle check point patrols, Marines have conducted hundreds of mounted, dismounted and ambush patrols, along with counter sniper operations and entry control point operations.

“They also train and operate with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Infantry Division as well as the Iraqi Police,” said Capt. Reginald J. McClam, the battalion’s assistant operations officer.

“It’s the young Marines ensuring the local populace has some kind of future and is not disrupted by insurgent activity,” said McClam, 32, from Garner, N.C., adding Marines are taking the risk to clear improvised explosive devices so the local population doesn’t have to deal with them.

Marines with 3rd Bn., 8th Marines have also conducted several assessments to determine the quality of life support assets needed for the people of Ramadi, such as electricity, water and sewage.

McClam spoke highly of the Marines saying they are conducting a classic counter insurgency fight like true professionals.

“They exhibit exceptional maturity,” he said. “I’m most proud of the Marines.”

Now the battalion has reached the half way mark of its second deployment to Iraq, and is looking forward to returning home to Camp Lejuene, N.C., this fall.

“I’m anxious to go home see my wife and kid,” said Staley, a mortarman currently working with 3rd Platoon searching citizens during check points. “When you reach that half way point it usually goes a little quicker or slower depending how you look at it. It’s been pretty good so far, it could always be worse,” he said.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William T. Corso, a corpsman for the platoon, is also eager to get home, but he isn’t letting that get in the way of his mission.

“We have accomplished many things out here and we’ve done plenty of operations. We are really trying to work hard for the people of Ramadi,” said Corso, 21, from Sanford, Fla.

“The glass is now half full, but there is still plenty of time for stuff to happen, so we can not let up now,” he said.

The level of violence in western Ramadi has reduced significantly due to the efforts of Lima Company and 3rd Bn., 8th Marines. There is now an Iraqi Police station and the Iraqi Army operates in their own battle space which they patrol day and night.