COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq - -- First Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, has made its home on a small outpost in the western Euphrates River valley, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, and 50 miles east of the Syrian border.
The city of Rawah, the COP’s namesake, acts as a thoroughfare for all traffic to and from the outpost. The city’s, and the outpost’s, defense and safety are the responsibility of Company D, commonly referred to as Diablo, which lives in the center of town.
Diablo uses patrols and evaluations, commonly called surveys, to keep up with the ever-changing city and it’s more than 20,000 citizens.
“A lot of times while we are going through a city we will do a census, or survey, to give ourselves a better handle on who is in our AO (area of operation), and what they are doing,” said Cpl. Zack R. Shook, a patrol leader with Diablo.
The Marines say they have discovered that many times trouble in the city is not caused by locals, but by groups of outsiders.
“We stay on the lookout for migrant workers from other cities who aren’t documented, and we check IDs against a BOLO (be on the lookout) list,” said Shook, a native of San Marcos, Calif.
“If someone doesn’t have an ID, or we suspect its fake, we detain them, so we can find out who they are and make sure they are here for a legitimate reason,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew M. Vanbuskirk, a fire direction control chief with the company.
Diablo’s Marines also said the surveys give them a good chance to constantly update their maps and grids.
“Construction is pretty much constant in the city. We graph new sites and new buildings, so we have a better grasp on what our city looks like at all times,” said Vanbuskirk, a native of Hayward, Calif. “It also gives us a chance to make sure they aren’t using the construction sites for other purposes.”
The surveys allow the Marines to interact and communicate with the local citizens, and strengthen the bonds between the two groups.
“Because we are out so much talking with them, they feel comfortable telling us when something is wrong, or when they think we are in danger,” Shook said.
So far, Diablo has discovered at least one improvised explosive device, and detained numerous suspected insurgents based off the information they receive from the Iraqi citizens.
“Our predecessors (2nd LAR) did a good job with the locals, which set us up for success,” Vanbuskirk said. “We have taken that lead and ran with it, and we are doing a great job keeping the insurgents on their toes and defending the people of this city.”