RAMADI, Iraq -- One of the toughest jobs for the Marines operating in the Al Anbar capital is getting to know the neighborhoods.
Marines from I Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment went door-to-door June 2 to conduct a patrol with the purpose of getting to know the residents in their area of operations.
“We meet the people, hear their concerns, and learn the social dynamics of the neighborhood,” said Seaman Dustin K. Horton, 21, a hospital corpsman from Spartanburg, S.C.
Prior to the operation, Marines gathered in a hallway of a building at Camp Blue Diamond to discuss a plan of action. As day turned into night, the Marines loaded into their humvees and 7-ton vehicles and traveled into the middle of city to meet and talk to the population.
Once the Marines arrived at their insertion point, they began navigating to a designated area north of the Government Center. The crescent moonlight and hazy green glow of their goggles allowed for enough visibility to traverse from house to house in the dark.
Lance Cpl. Jacob R. Webb, a team leader with 2nd Platoon, traveled with his squad ahead of the rest of their platoon to set up overwatch security.
“As soon as we got security, the other teams began checking the Iraqi populace to see how they are doing,” said Webb, a 21-year-old from Pensacola, Fla.
A census operation is unlike any other counterinsurgency operation Marines normally conduct, such as an ambush, raid or combat patrol. The census makes it possible for Marines to learn about the people. Sometimes the best way to do that is by knocking on the door of an Iraqi home and meeting them face to face, say the Marines.
The Marines entered one home and searched it for any possible improvised explosive device-making material and other weapons. As soon as the house was clear, the Marines used some of the latest technology to test for any insurgent activity.
“The people are nice about it,” said Webb, who was inside a home with an Iraqi family of seven. “They offer food, water, blankets and pillows. If you need something, they want to help.”
Pfc. Charles J. Durham is another Marine with 2nd Platoon who has been spending a lot of time with Iraqi families in different homes throughout the city.
“We are here to help, and when we go to people’s houses they feel safe that we’re there,” said Durham, 19, an infantryman from Dover, Tenn.
Not everything was peaceful during the census. Several insurgents opened up with AK-47 fire directly at Marines posting security.
The Marines responded by returning fire with a squad automatic weapon, which quickly suppressed the enemy’s attempt.
“The most difficult thing is that we’re always taking small arms fire; it always keeps us on the edge,” said Webb.
The insurgents in the area are not the only challenge the Marines are up against, temperatures soaring to above 115 degrees Fahrenheit provide an added obstacle for the Marines.
“Its makes our job more miserable, but all in all, this is what we are trained in,” said Durham.
Since the beginning of the battalion’s deployment in March, India Company has successfully completed several census operations.
“We have done 20 to 25 of these missions out here, and some last six hours while others can last up to 24,” said Webb. “The first census patrol was hard, but you get use to it and it’s not that bad.”
Ramadi is a dangerous place to conduct any type of operation, but the Marines and sailors of I Company are always up for a challenge.
“It’s exciting being out here and being a part of it all. It’s scary at times, but that comes with the job,” said Horton “If you want to be deeply involved in Iraq, Ramadi seems to be the place to where it all seems to be happening.”