NEAR KARMAH, Iraq --
Beginning at patrol bases within the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s area of operations, Marines from Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, are integrating forces with the Iraqi Army and looking ahead to future joint tactical commitment.
The integration comes as the MEU nears a scheduled end to missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and prepares to continue with a Western Pacific deployment, which began during April.
Keeping with the traditional pace of “crawl, walk, run,” the force integration process has allowed for a smooth, steady transition. Combined effort has already produced successful counterinsurgency patrols, while responsibilities such as base security are slowly turned over to the IA. At Combat Outpost Golden, a joint guard force has been activated with BLT 3/1 Marines and Iraqi personnel standing side by side.
The massive coordination effort on behalf of the two commands has not been without small aspects of friction, said Military Transition Team commander Lt. Col. Woody Hesser, however, understanding and an open-minded attitude on behalf of BLT 3/1’s staff has eased the process greatly.
“(BLT 3/1) is being very welcoming,” said Hesser, “It’s a good news story. I’ve actually been surprised at how fast the Juundis (junior Iraqi personnel) have been integrated.”
Hesser said the phenomenal rate of transition is a direct product of 3/1 staff’s trust in the Iraqi battalion, which recently wrapped up successful security and stability operations in Fallujah.
“We started crawling, and within twenty-four hours we were walking. Now, we’re jogging … we’re not running yet, but we’re getting there.”
Hesser praised 3/1 staff for identifying and supporting the operational planning requirements for the Iraqis.
“Not only has the battalion integrated Iraqis on patrols, they’ve worked them into mission briefings, planning, intel, it shows a level of trust. The ultimate level is going to be putting Juundis on guard and letting the Marines sleep.”
Another key to success, said Hesser, is the willingness of Juundis to learn from young Marine counterparts during operations by observation. Although the transition team trains Iraqi Forces in basic tactics, Hesser noted that observing Marines is the most effective means of integration.
“With more than 1,000 Marines here, (Iraqis) can learn more in two or three weeks than the MTT can teach them in … forever.”
For more information about the BLT 3/1 force integration in the Al Anbar Province, or the warriors of the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit the unit’s Web site athttp://ww.usmc.mil/13thmeu.