CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq --
What was once a prime route for smuggling weapons, ammunition and improvised explosive device material is now a road less traveled for terrorist activity thanks to the hard work of the Iraqi Highway Patrol and help from the Marines.
Marines from Task Force Military Police, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, recently trained the IHP from (Combat Outpost) Golden, who are continuing to build up and improve on a traffic control point along a major thoroughfare in their area of operations.
“Before the traffic control point was set up, this was a heavily traveled road for terrorist groups coming in and out of the big cities,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Clevinger, platoon commander, third platoon, TFMP. “The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit set up this checkpoint during their stay here, and that’s a big reason why this area has quieted down.”
With the checkpoint already in place, the job of continuing training and building the Iraqi confidence fell upon the Marines from Charlie Battery.
“Our initial plan when we set out for COP Golden was to train the Iraqi Highway Patrol how to conduct traffic stops and to properly patrol,” said Clevinger.
Upon arrival it was clear 3rd platoon’s mission was going to have to change just to keep the highway patrolmen to stay.
“When we got to COP Golden, the Iraqi highway patrolmen were in no position to run the traffic control point properly,” said Clevinger. “They had the manpower to do so, but they lacked confidence, and due to recent attacks they lost the will.”
The Iraqi highway patrol wanted to leave.
“It took a lot of talking and bargaining to get them to stay,” said Clevinger. “They were shaken up by recent IED attacks and small arms fire and they wanted to know that they had support if they needed it.”
Third platoon were the only coalition forces in the area and they knew it was vital to have the highway patrolmen there to keep the checkpoint up and running.
“It was very important that we made sure the checkpoint was able to operate to the best of its ability in order to maintain the decreased terrorist activity,” said Clevinger. “It was clear we had to do some work to build their confidence.”
Agreeing to stay by their sides, but from a distance, the Marines set up observation posts and let the Iraqi Highway Patrol conduct business as normal. The Marines observed, from a backseat position, how they conducted vehicle checks, questioned people and set up perimeters to provide them training to enhance their capabilities.
“After watching the Iraqis work, we quickly picked up on some things that would greatly improve on how they ran the checkpoint,” said Clevinger.
The first thing the Marines decided to do was to help them establish entry control point procedures. Establishing these procedures gave the checkpoint workers a strong foundation to work off.
“Once we taught them the basics, you could tell the checkpoint workers started to gain confidence in what they were doing,” said Cpl. Ben Trotman, cross boundary coordinator, third platoon, TFMP. “With the foundation in place, we were then able to teach them how to properly search vehicles and what questions to ask the motorists.”
With each day passing, the checkpoint workers gained confidence becoming more reliant, allowing the Marines to address other areas of concern.
“When the highway patrolmen realized that they could run the checkpoint, we decided to take them out on patrols,” said Clevinger. “The idea to take them on patrols was to get the Iraqi face out there, we wanted the people in the surrounding areas to know the highway patrolmen were there to help them.”
Getting the Iraqi patrols out to meet the local villagers proved to be the most beneficial part of the training, as the highway patrolmen learned an important lesson.
“The people wanted them there,” said Clevinger. “We went to just a few houses and the reception of the Iraqi Security Force presence was phenomenal. This was really where we stepped back and let the highway patrol do their thing.”
After days of training the highway patrol, it was third platoon’s time to return to Camp Fallujah, confidently leaving the checkpoint and highway patrolmen in the hands of a fellow TFMP platoon.
“The change we saw while working with the Iraqi Highway Patrol was one of day and night,” said Clevinger. “When it was time for us to leave, the patrolmen not only took pride in their work, but competing against one another to come up with new ideas and to do their job better.”