SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq -- Marines from G Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted snap, or hasty, vehicle check points as part of a mounted patrol through the back roads of this small city a few miles northwest of Fallujah Feb. 12 to familiarize themselves with their area of operations.
Snap VCPs are a fundamental part of security operations. They give Marines operating in this area a solid low-level view of what's going on the ground here and a chance to interdict those who would do them harm.
“It’s good that we are stopping these vehicles,” explained Lance Cpl. Chad R. Whiting, a 35-year-old team leader from Toledo, Ohio. “Even if we’re not catching anybody, we’re stopping the flow of insurgents. We’re denying them freedom of movement to go where they please.”
While manning the check points the Marines stop vehicles that match particular profiles used by insurgents. At a VCP today, Cpl. J.D. France's squad stopped a vehicle triggering lessons they learned prior to deploying.
“It was the only vehicle we had seen all morning and the area was pretty built up,” explained France, a 22-year-old squad leader from Batesville, Ind. “The vehicle wasn’t too beat up and there were four military aged males occupying the vehicle, so that raised suspicions.”
“The more suspicious vehicles we stop, the more our odds increase of finding insurgents,” explained France. “It also lets the Iraqi people who see us stopping these vehicles know that we are doing our job, that we’re making the roads safer for them.”
Sometimes the Marines will stop a vehicle and catch insurgents red-handed, other times they are innocent Iraqi people.
“The men we stopped were (not a threat). We checked all of their IDs and it turns out they were school teachers,” said France. “I still think it was good that we stopped them; just because they didn’t have any weapons doesn’t mean (that vehicle) couldn’t have had them.”
Even though some of the vehicles the Marines stop don’t have insurgents with lots of weapons with them, Marines are still accomplishing a lot by erring on the side of safety.
“If we get nothing else from these vehicles that were stopping, we’re at least learning about the local populace and how cooperative they are with us,” Whiting explained. “It’s very important that we find out how these people are acting toward us so we know how we should act toward them.”
The vehicle search went smoothly and the Iraqi men were very cooperative. Since the Saqlawiyans pass through VCPs so regularly, more often than not they know what to do when they are stopped.
Though the “War Dogs” did not detain any insurgents with their VCP, it can still be considered a successful mission, said France.
“I think the searches went perfectly. We didn’t find any weapons or anything else out of the ordinary which is always good,” he said. “At the same time the Iraqi people see us checking these vehicles and they know we are out there doing our job: trying to make Saqlawiyah safer for them.”