BAGHDAD, Iraq -- As the Iraqi regime continues to crumble, citizens around the country are showering American forces with praises and some protest.
Along with the smiling faces welcoming American military forces there are also hostile activities going on throughout the city. Looting is still present in certain areas. Demonstrations and small arms firing are still going on daily.
The Marines from 3rd Civil Affairs Group make up the Civilian Military Operation Center based out of the Palestine Hotel located in the capital city. They have the mission of helping the people of Iraq take control of Baghdad after the fall of the previous regime.
Since April 11, Marines of the 3rd Assault Amphibious Battalion, traveling with 1st Regimental Combat Team out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., have been providing security for the members of the CMOC. Across the street from the center is the site of the former statue of Saddam that was toppled by Iraqis, April 9, with help from a U.S. Marine tank. The hotel has become the gathering place for Baghdad citizens offering their assistance, along with demonstrators and hundreds of journalists from around the world.
During the second weekend in April, 3rd AA Bn. Marines came under several attacks from paramilitary members. They repelled the enemy by fire. When a man was stabbed and beat by a mob while trying to stop some looting, a Navy corpsman tended his wounds while Marines protected him from any more harm.
After an Iraqi soldier approached the hotel wearing full uniform and waving a white flag the crowd tore part of his clothes off and beat him. Marines then pulled him to safety where he was placed under enemy prisoner of war status.
All the while Marines maintained crowd control.
Newly baptized in combat that took them from the borders of Kuwait to the heart of the Iraqi capital in about three weeks, manning this civil unrest is just one more log entry for this well traveled crew. This war, like all wars, has changed the men of 3rd AA Bn. and they're still digesting the experience.
"It makes me look at life a lot different," said Lance Cpl. Jacob M. Cleveland, assault amphibious crewman with 3rd AA Bn., 1st Regimental Combat Team. "I won't have to worry about getting shot when I go home."
"This is an experience I am never going to forget," said the 21-year old from Costa Mesa, Calif.