AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Few Marines have been deployed often enough to truly appreciate the changes and improvements that have been made since the beginning of the war on terror, but there are some.
Cpl. Joshua J. Frazier and Lance Cpl. Michael D. Douglas, both on their fourth deployment in support of the war on terror, are currently attached to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
Settling into their newest operations, they’ve noticed a few things that make their most recent deployment a little easier, according to Frazier, a 24-year-old squad leader with Company A.
Possibly the most important of improvements has been the helpful disposition of many of the city’s residents to Marines operating in the city.
The residents’ cooperation, as well as their willingness to give information about local anti-Iraqi forces, assists in battalion operations and the safety of the Marines.
Mere weeks into their operations in the area, one of Frazier’s patrols was approached by an Iraqi citizen who informed him of an improvised explosive device placed outside of his home to be used against the patrol.
“He chose to help us,” said Frazier, a native of Spotsylvania, Va. “That stuff didn’t happen on my last deployment.”
Douglas, a 22-year-old rifleman in Frazier’s squad, noticed the same change in demeanor when approaching citizens in their homes.
On previous deployments, Marines searching a home would be met with fear and mistrust, but now the greeting is different, according to Douglas.
“Now they open their doors and serve us tea,” said Douglas, a native of Houston, Texas.
The kind of work and experience needed to continue the trend cooperation in Iraq is one of the reasons Frazier extended his contract with the Marine Corps to join the battalion for this deployment.
“When I left last year I felt there was still a lot of work to be done,” said Frazier.
Another significant change the Marines appreciate in Ramadi is the improved living conditions.
Inside their firm bases Marines enjoy air-conditioned rooms, electricity, their own beds and spacious accommodations.
“This place looked terrible when I saw it,” said Douglas. “But once you get inside your base, it’s great.”
Although still lacking in some aspects, some of the firm bases provide the more advanced comforts of home.
Some common rooms in the bases have large, flat-screen televisions and a few even offer computers with Internet connection.
Phone centers and satellite phones also provide the Marines with easy contact with their loved ones.
“Marines can do without a roof over their head and running water, but being able to stay in contact with family is important,” said Frazier.
The established and furnished firm bases allow the Marines to focus more on their missions and operations in the city.
With sturdy defenses in place, comfortable resting quarters and contact with loved ones, the Marines’ minds are clear to focus on the task at hand, according to Douglas.
“Last deployment we built our base from the ground up,” said Douglas. “This gives us a lot less to worry about.”
With a strong footing in the city and the cooperation of some of its residents, the veterans of the battalion are confident that conditions can be improved further.
The progress of the country serves as a symbol of the Marines’ accomplishments with Iraqi forces and the people’s recognition of their true goal, according to Frazier.
“It gives you pride in what you do,” said Frazier. “We’re here trying to rebuild this place, not tear it down.”
Frazier has served with infantry battalions during one deployment to Japan, one to Afghanistan and back-to-back deployments to Iraq.
Douglas served with infantry battalions during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, one tour in Afghanistan and back-to-back deployments to Iraq.