miércoles, 30 de noviembre de 2005

All quiet on the flight line

Sgt. James P. Aguilar

AL QAIM, Iraq (Nov. 30, 2005) -- Construction of bases for the Iraqi Army and U.S. military’s long-term security presence is steadily progressing in Husaybah, Karabilah and Ubaydi. Simultaneously, Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines continue patrolling to ensure insurgents do not return. These patrols also involve detailed searches, looking for hidden weapons caches and deadly improvised explosive devices. Approximately 120 bombs and mines have been located over the course of Operation Steel Curtain.

Three aspects of the operation which makes Steel Curtain different from previous operations in the Western Euphrates River Valley are increased Iraqi Army participation, immediate establishment of long-term security presence, and Iraqi Army soldiers taking the lead in security and care of the citizens temporarily displaced by the operation.

Approximately 1,000 Iraqi Army soldiers took part in Operation Steel Curtain. During Operation Romhe (Spear), conducted in this same area last June, fewer than 100 Iraqi soldiers took part.

Today, more than 15,000 Iraqi Army soldiers are stationed in Al Anbar province and recently locally-recruited soldiers are joining and operating with Iraqi Army units and U.S. forces. The Desert Protectors, recruited from the Al Qa’im region, fought alongside Iraqi Army soldiers and Coalition forces in Operation Steel Curtain.

lunes, 28 de noviembre de 2005

Female Marines guarding the gates of Fallujah

CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -(Nov 28 2005)- Walking or driving into the city of Fallujah is no longer a simple process for Iraqi civilians because of constant attacks that previously ravaged the city.

Now with guards posted at all times, vehicle and personnel searches, the city is much safer, however, if a bomb were to be strapped to a female Iraqi it would go unnoticed. This is not the case anymore.

Female Marines from various units within Combat Logistics Brigade-8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, stand at the gates of Fallujah to ensure the city remains safe by checking female Iraqis for dangerous materials.

Iraqi Soldiers also work the border alongside the U.S. service members; however, it is against their morals for males to search females so female Marines stand post to ensure that no person goes unchecked.

“We conduct searches on all women entering Fallujah,” said Lance Cpl. Joyce N. Fundweburk, a supply warehouseman with CLB-8, 2nd MLG. “You never know who could be carrying anything potentially dangerous.”

The Marines, chosen at random from within CLB-8, stand post from sunrise to sunset at one of three entrances that surround the city. Whether female Iraqis enter walking or traveling in a vehicle, they are searched the same as everyone else.

To ensure that there are no incidents around the gate entrances, Marines with 2nd Marine Division stand post 24-hours everyday and search every vehicle entering. All people traveling in a vehicle are sent through a walking checkpoint that is run by the female Marines and Iraqi soldiers.

“It is a safe post to have,” said Lance Cpl. Riki M. Aguirre, a field radio operator with Headquarters and Service Company, CLB-8, 2nd MLG. “Although it can get boring at times, it is nice to get out of the office for awhile.”

Working in two shifts with four Marines, they search hundreds of Iraqi women daily. Searching purses and a physical check of the individuals, the Marines are searching for weapons, anything suspicious and also ensuring Iraqis turn their cell phones off before crossing the border.

“The signal from the phone could trigger a planted bomb,” said Lance Cpl. Genevieve R. Kocourek, a combat engineer with Company A., 7th Engineer Support Battalion, CLB-8, 2nd MLG.

“I don’t know what will happen once [the Iraqi government] doesn’t need us here anymore,” Kocourek said. “There are no female Iraqi soldiers, so if we are not here there will be no one to conduct the searches on females entering the city.”

Until U.S. involvement is no longer needed at the gates here, the city stands a better chance against potential future attacks because of the female Marine search teams, according to Fundweburk.

“You never know if the next female you search could have a bomb strapped to her,” Fundweburk said. “But because we are here the city is much safer.”