AL RAFTA, Iraq -- The quiet current of the Euphrates River was interrupted by a low hum. Two men in a small fishing boat moved along the river. Unseen to the fishermen, Marines stood alongside a crumbling aqueduct waving the men to the shore. Any insurgents moving along the Euphrates River that day were trapped.
The Marines of third platoon, Charlie Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, blocked the Euphrates River access while Weapons Company 1/4, searched houses north of the river for insurgents.
“We were intercepting anyone trying to flee from the north side of the Euphrates into the south side,” said Cpl. Shawn Atwood, a squad leader with third platoon, Charlie Company.
The citizens of Al Rafta normally fished in the Euphrates River but during the day’s search, they were asked to pull up to the shore where third platoon searched their boats.
“Most locals we met supported us and understood we were there to help them during the search,” Atwood said.
The friendly locals provided freshly cooked bread and offered their boats to the Marines for movement along the river.
“I wanted to see all the avenues of approach along the river,” Atwood said. “And I wanted to observe any boat-landing-sites along the river to pass to my superiors during the mission’s debrief.”
No insurgents were found on the river that day.
“It seemed a lot of the people here were just honest fishermen trying to make an honest living,” said Cpl. Justin Rubley, a team leader with third platoon, Charlie Company.
Fishermen moved along the river during the day and seemed happy to help the Marines in their mission.
“Letting the locals know why we were there eased their minds and they became friendly, allowing us to use their boats in the future,” Atwood said.
Securing the small fishing town of Al Rafta was equally important to securing the large bustling city of Baghdad.
“Small farming towns like Al Rafta are right in the middle of the road where insurgents transport weapons and IED making materials to the larger cities,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Moore, a machine gun team leader with third platoon, Charile Company.
Foreign fighters smuggling weapons into Iraq hide weapons caches in small towns by bribing locals or threatening them with fear and intimidation tactics.
“There will be less civilian and coalition deaths in larger populated areas such as Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah if we cut off the enemies supply routes,” Moore said.
The serenity and safety of the small, river town was recognized by the Marines, but it wasn’t a time for them to remove their body armor and helmets.
“This place is quiet and a prototype for Iraq,” Moore said. “But we still need to be vigilant and prepared for anything.”
Charlie Marines searched along the Euphrates River while Al Rafta’s locals provided boats for Marines to use, an example of Marines and locals working together to search for the insurgency plaguing Iraq.
“Getting rid of this insurgency lets the people of Al Rafta go back to a normal way of life,” Rubley said. “This is what they want and this is why we help them.”