RAWAH, Iraq -- Marines here work together, eat together, live together, and have essentially become brothers.
But the bonds extend beyond themselves. In the past five months, Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion have become a part of the city of Rawah.
Platoons of Marines, groups of about 30 men, rotate through the city of 30,000, about 15 miles northwest of Baghdad, as they control different patrol bases and check points with the help of Iraqi Security Forces.
Since they arrived in Iraq in early September, Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company D, have grown together and bonded in a way that some Marines say they didn’t think was possible.
“There’s a bunch of different personalities in this platoon,” said Cpl. Ian Striplin, a 22-year-old from Watsontown, Penn. “There are guys from all over America, that’s one of the great things about this battalion.”
Wherever the Marines in 2nd Platoon go, said Striplin, they’re always trying to “make more with less.”
The Marines work to improve living conditions, which not only benefits them, but local Iraqis as well, said Striplin, an infantryman. Marines stop at local shops to pick up heaters, blankets and whatever else they need, he added, not only building relationships but also putting money into the community.
These Marines often only stay in one location for several days before moving again. The thing that remains constant in their lives is each other and their ability to work together to “get the job done,” which in turn has produced positive results with the local populace.
During a recent night patrol, Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company D were pleasantly surprised at what they found.
Local Iraqis were out, working on houses and setting up new stores – a big change from several months ago when locals stayed in their houses from fear of insurgent activity, said 1st Lt. Douglas A. Woodcock, a 30-year-old platoon commander from Greene, Mon.
The Iraqis were friendly and open with Marines, who paid the respects back by greeting people they recognized and seeing if there was any way they could help.
“We interact with the locals everyday,” said Striplin. “If someone is sick, our doc helps them out. In this town the power goes out a lot, so we try and see what we can do to give people a hand.”
Two weeks ago, Marines in Rawah found a huge weapons cache. Taking weapons off the streets and detaining suspected insurgents has made Rawah “the safest it’s ever been,” according to Iraqi interpreters who’ve been working in the area for several years.
However, back in October 2006, Rawah was a different place. Marines and Iraqi Security Forces would come under attack constantly as they conducted security operations.
The Marines of 2nd Platoon became the targets of a grenade attack while on patrol during that troubling time.
No one was killed, thankfully, Marines here say, but the attack definitely shook them all up.
“I think it made a major impact on all of us,” said Pfc. Christopher Hyatt, a 22-year-old Light Armored Vehicle crewman who was injured in the blast. “But after seeing how everyone reacted, it just makes me trust these guys even more.”
The thing he missed most while recovering from his injuries was being with his guys, said Hyatt, a Dallas native. Coming back to the platoon, he admitted to being a little nervous, but his fellow Marines got him ready for the job again through their own brand of comfort.
“They ragged on me for a while about my ‘time off’,” said Hyatt. “It was all in good fun though.”
Every platoon has their own mentality, but 2nd just seems to come together perfectly, said Striplin. However, all differences and friendly rivalry between various platoons aside, when it comes down to it, everyone’s got the same goal, he added.
“We’re going to get the job done, that’s what it’s all about,” said Hyatt.