FALLUJAH, Iraq (Feb. 24,
2005) -- Terrorists pay large
amounts of money for the mortars, rockets and other explosives used against
coalition forces, but the going rate for Marines to find these items in Fallujah,
Iraq, is as little as a piece of chocolate.
As soon as 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, arrived in Fallujah in January, Iraqi children began guiding patrols to unexploded ordnance and weapons caches within their neighborhoods, expecting only chocolate in return.
“Our first patrols were swarmed by kids looking for chocolate,” said Cpl. Miles J. Smith, 21, a squad leader for I Company. “We just handed it out for a while, then we started asking them to show us the ‘boom.’”
The children of Fallujah were more than compliant, showing patrols to a variety of UXO and weapons caches, said Smith, a native of Paul’s Valley, Okla.
In exchange for food, candy, water, or the occasional American dollar, the children have helped Marines confiscate grenades, mortars, heat-seeking rockets, plastic explosives, weapons and ammunition, according to Smith.
“It has been one of our best sources of intelligence,” said Maj. Matt O. Watt, 33, the operations officer for 3/4.
The residents have an intimate knowledge of the area, and can direct Marines to UXO and weapons without disturbing their homes or way of life, Watt said.
The removal of these dangerous items benefits all parties involved, helping remove the fear of attack from improvised explosive devices.
“When we get the UXO out of their neighborhoods, it keeps it out of enemy hands and safer for (the people),” said Watt. “It’s a win-win situation.”
The combination of humanitarian aid and the disposal of dangerous items from the homes and streets of Fallujah’s residents have provided a valuable connection between Iraqis and Marines.
“Working with the residents to remove these threats has helped build goodwill between us,” said Watt, “and we’ll foster that whenever possible.”
With the full support of the battalion, the Marines of 3/4 will continue to work side-by-side with the residents of Fallujah in removing these threats to their city.
“A lot of us are stocking our pockets for our next patrol into the city,” Allen said.