HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Marines from Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, recently conducted their first joint security patrol with the Iraqi Police since arriving in Al Anbar late January. The historic operation marked a turning point for the future of Habbaniyah. The local populace has grown accustomed to seeing Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers patrol the streets, but not with the Iraqi Police.
The mission of the day was to pass out Iraqi Police recruiting pamphlets, search suspicious vehicles and establish the presence of police forces. Unlike the Iraqi Army soldiers, who are recruited throughout the country, the Iraqi Police are locally recruited. By joining forces with the Marines, the IPs are ensuring the safety of their own neighborhoods.
“I think we definitely turned some heads out there,” said Staff Sgt. Michael S. Richard, 30, from Merrimack, N.H. “The Iraqi people saw that the Iraqi Police are here to rid their neighborhoods of bad guys.”
For the Marines, their mission can be summed up in one word: transition. Fighting the insurgency gets easier as the Iraqi Security Forces become more effective. A more effective force means the ISF will be able to take over their towns and villages.
“Our mission is transition,” said Maj. Mark H. Clingan, battalion operations officer, 36, from Westminster, Md. “We need to set up the Iraqi Security Forces for success. We have done extensive work with the Iraqi Army, and now it’s time to start doing the same with the Iraqi Police.”
The eagerness of the Iraqi Police to patrol their own hometowns was evident, despite the threat they face daily from anti-Iraqi forces.
“The IPs showed a desire to conduct joint patrols with the Marines,” said Richard. “(They) responded without hesitation to dismount from their armored vehicles and patrol the streets with us.”
This first combined patrol set the pace and tone for what the mission is really about. The Marines are here to create an environment that will allow the ISF to create an Iraq, for Iraqis, by Iraqis. It is important for the Iraqi people to see their fellow citizens stepping up to fill this role.