AL ASAD, Iraq --
One of the goals of the Marines in the Middle East is to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. It makes it easier to fight insurgents when local Iraqis know the Marines are there to help them. To that end, the Marines of 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, Marine Wing Security Battalion 372 patrol the surrounding areas of Al Asad, connecting with the local people and building a stronger relationship.
To strengthen that relationship, the Marines delivered school supplies to a school in the outlying town of Hawran during a patrol of the area, Oct. 19.
Back packs, paper, glue and soccer balls are just some of the things Marines gave to the school and the local children. Of more immediate concern to the children were the Gatorade packets that some Marines handed out. Interacting with the local children was a highlight of the patrol, providing a welcome break from searching cars and talking to shepherds. Knowing that they are making a little boy or girl’s day makes it that much better, according to Cpl. Ian Maloney, a vehicle commander with 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, Marine Wing Support Battalion 372.
“It’s always enjoyable when you go to Hawran, or any time you meet sheepherders or brass pickers, and they have kids with them,” said Maloney, a Manchester, Ga., native. “It’s enjoyable because you see them running around and all that, and it gives you a sense of normalcy. It kind of gives you a break, knowing that someone has that stable lifestyle.
Giving the toys out and seeing the kids smile, it’s always good knowing that you’re doing something for them.”
The Marines pass through Hawran on a regular basis. Most of the time they will stop and talk to the local Iraqis, but sometimes they will just drive through. The idea is to let the people of Hawran know the Marines are just around the corner.
“It’s a presence patrol,” explained Lance Cpl. Randy Dorrough, a vehicle commander with 2nd Platoon. “Basically what we do is go out there to let them know that we’re here.”
It took a while for the local Iraqis to welcome the Marines, who are constantly working to earn and keep their trust.
“When we first got here, we basically just came out to meet everyone and find out where they live, stuff like that,” explained Dorrough, a Champaign, Ill., native. “Now, we go into their house, and they would let you sit on their bed where they sleep. They don’t have much but they’ll give you their bread and their water.”
That relationship is critical for the Marines to get information from the locals. If they do not trust the Marines or they fear retaliation from insurgents, the locals are less likely to give information that could save lives later on down the line.
“We’re kind of like the police walking a beat,” said Maloney. “But they know that as long as we’re there, constantly coming through, the bad guys won’t come in and make trouble.”
“They’ve told us a couple times that they know they are safer because we’re out there,” added Cpl. Brian Nobles, a vehicle driver with 2nd Platoon, and a Milton, Fla., native. “They know no one will mess with them. We’re doing our job, we’re showing our presence out there.”
The Marines of 2nd Platoon know that while they may be responsible for a small portion of the desert, what they are doing has a big impact on other Marines in Iraq.
“We’re keeping Al Asad safe by going out there and doing patrols,” said Maloney. “It shows our presence. They would know as soon as we stopped doing patrols, and that would allow for more people to come through. As long as we’re doing what we need to do, and keeping the relations with the locals in good order, then we’re keeping Al Asad safe. And Al Asad is the major air base in the area, and is keeping other people safe.”