Thursday, May 1, 2008

‘Batting’ a thousand

Cpl. Jessica Aranda
AL WALEED, Iraq (April 20, 2008) – A small team of lance corporals, corporals and one sergeant augmented from units of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) hold the responsibility of screening 100 percent of personnel coming through Iraq’s second busiest port of entry.

The “BATS” Marines, nicknamed after the Biometrics Automated Toolset electronics system they use, photograph, document and scan the fingerprint and irises of each person crossing the border.

Programmed into their BATS system are the profiles of highly-valued individuals and wanted insurgents. The equipment alerts the Marines when a profile matches that of a terrorist or foreign fighter and they call Multi National Force – West headquarters for guidance on detaining the suspect.

Should MNF-West deem detainment necessary, the Marines have 24 hours to deliver the detainee to Camp Korean Village, and 48 hours to transport them to Al Asad Air Base.

“I think our job is very important,” said Cpl. Kevin Davis, a member of the team and Dallas native. “The transition teams here are enforcing rules and training the Iraqis, but we are the only team dedicated to finding and eliminating terrorists from entering the country.”

The team goes out at different times to avert possible threats and suicide bombers from planning any operation against the BATS Marines. Once they patrol to the port, the group stops all vehicles and begins scanning the irises of each passenger.

The Marines “BAT” thousands of individuals each week, ensuring no terrorist crosses through the border by hiding in the realms of innocent citizens.

“We catch as many people as we can to prevent them from endangering the Marines and Iraqi people down the line,” said Cpl. Conrad Keoni, the BATS noncommissioned officer in charge and a Farmington, N.M., native.

The BATS team is a 60-day augment, and the Marines do most of their training on the job. In their short time here, they have learned basic the basic Arabic language and customs, and honed combat skills.

“Being a part of the BATS team is completely different from my job,” said Cpl. Steven Aguilar, a San Antonio, Texas, native and administrative clerk with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38. “I got the opportunity to obtain real combat experience. I also learned that the Iraqi’s are very hospitable people verses what is shown on TV. ”

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