Friday, February 22, 2008

Diamondbacks patrol desert ready to strike

Lance Cpl. Michael Stevens

AL ASAD, Iraq (February 22, 2008) – The unforgiving terrain of the Iraqi desert is familiar operating ground for Marines tasked with mounted combat patrols.

Marines with 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 372, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, spend hours of their day riding in armored-vehicles equipped with crew-served weapons, patrolling the areas surrounding Al Asad Air Base to monitor the activity of Iraqi civilians occupying the area.

Before each patrol, checkpoints and standard operating procedures are established. Patrol leaders and vehicle commanders inform the crew of all safety advisories and procedures, recent enemy activity and any other information Marines should know before leaving the wire.

“On a daily basis we conduct several patrols in the area of operation around Al Asad,” said 2nd Lt. Travis Aiello, the platoon commander for 2nd Platoon. “We’re out there to provide security to the base, interact with the locals living in the area and try to gather intelligence on the enemy.”

During the patrol, the Marines vigilantly search for signs of enemy activity.
“When we go out on an MCP, our number one objective is to show that we mean business,” said Cpl. Tyree Kendall, a vehicle commander with 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon. “We present a very strong presence by having vehicles with heavy armor and crew-served weapons.”

The patrols are key in providing a military existence in the operating area and increasing the trust between the Iraqi civilians and coalition forces, added Kendall.

“We’re trying to build a relationship with the local nationals and continue to build their confidence in the coalition efforts,” said Sgt. Daniel A. Diaz, the patrol leader for 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon. “Increasing our presence deters the enemy from gathering reconnaissance and intelligence on the coalition forces.”

Interacting with the local nationals provides the Marines with the best opportunity to gather information on insurgent activity.

According to Diaz, the locals don’t tolerate the presence of potentially harmful outsiders and will advise the Marines of their whereabouts.

While on patrol, the platoon also supports the locals by handing out food and bottled water as well as providing medical assistance to those in need. During the winter, the Marines handed out hats, gloves, blankets and stuffed animals to the Iraqi children.

The “Diamondbacks” are from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., but have augments from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Az., and MCAS Miramar, Calif., to help complete the squadron’s mission.

“The Marines come from a variety of military occupational specialties and have performed a superior job since setting foot in Iraq,” said Staff Sgt. Adrian A. Gomez, the platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon. “If I could come back out here to do this job again, I would gladly work with each Marine.”