COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq - -- Combat Outpost Rawah, home of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, sits in a shallow valley overlooking the city of Rawah, Iraq, in the western Euphrates River valley.
Rawah’s defense and safety are left in the capable hands of Company D, more commonly known as Diablo, which lives on the edge of town. The company patrols the area several times a day, both mounted on vehicles and dismounted on foot.
“We patrol so much because our constant presence makes it harder to set IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and conduct other illegal or harmful activities,” said Sgt. Samual S. Pennock, a squad leader and platoon chief scout with the company. “We make sure these guys (insurgents) are always looking over their shoulder because they never know when we are going to show up.”
Many of the Diablo Marines agree with Pennock, and understand the importance of their mission.
“Patrols are important because they allow us to show our presence in the town. Insurgents can’t do anything here without looking over their shoulders,” said Lance Cpl. Steven R. Greene, a light armored vehicle driver with the company.
Diablo uses many types of patrols to canvas the area, and manages to average several patrols each day. The Marines never take the same route, and quite often they end up hiking up or down steep cliffs, and climbing over fences and walls to keep a close watch over every inch of their territory.
“The enemy never knows where we are coming from,” said 1st Lt. Joseph M. Kistler, the company’s executive officer. “The fact we patrol around the clock, whether mounted or dismounted, gives us excellent freedom of movement. It lets us conduct any operation at any time.”
The Marines said the patrols also give them a chance to see the locals and strengthens their relationship with the civilians in the city.
“Our constant presence gives the locals a sense of security,” said Kistler, a native of Savannah, Ga.
“I think they see us as a friendly force,” said Greene, a native of Newark, Ohio. “We hand out candy, shake hands and give high-five’s, and people are always coming out to wave at us. The proof is how much help they give us; a lot of our Intel comes from locals who just want to help.”
Diablo shares their headquarters with the local Iraqi Police force. The shared living space gives each group a new understanding of the others’ way of life.
“It opens the Marines’ eyes and lets them see into another organization. They get an appreciation for the level of training and the quality of equipment they have, plus it builds a mutual trust,” Kistler said.
The two forces work hand-in-hand in protecting the city.
“We do a lot of combined patrols,” said Pennock, a native of Osawatomie, Kan. “They step up and do the same stuff we do, which gives us a chance to reinforce what they have learned.”
Diablo’s Marines said working alongside the Iraqis and conducting security operations together is all part of the larger goal of turning everything over to Iraqi Security Forces.
“They are getting better; they really want to be like Marines. They emulate our good attributes and have improved since we have gotten here,” Kistler said. “They aren’t quite ready yet, we need to train more, but it is a possibility that is on the horizon.