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AL-ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq —A group of brave Iraqi men fighting to create a better Iraq recently assumed control of an area in western al-Anbar province from 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5.

Prior to assuming control of the area near the city of Rutbah, Iraqi soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 29th Iraqi Army Brigade worked hand and hand with 2nd LAR Bn.

“Our main focus is to get rid of the insurgency in oil smuggling and drugs,” said Iraqi Army 2nd Lt. Afhman Dehold, 28, an infantry officer with 3rd Bn., 29th Iraqi Army Brigade.

The soldiers assumed control of the approximate 8,000 sq. kilometer battlespace at the beginning of August and have conducted patrols through areas southwest of Rutbah, allowing the Iraqi Police to focus on activities within the city. Marines with 2nd LAR Bn. worked hard to set the Iraqi soldiers up for success.

“We wanted to provide them with the battlespace they could call home,” said Capt. Randall L. Parker, 30, company commander of Charlie Company, 2nd LAR Bn. “It sets them up for success to have an area for them to conduct operations and support our battalion.”

Even though the soldiers have assumed control of the area, Marines with Charlie Co. still work with the soldiers at least twice a week to provide moral support and increase the confidence of the soldiers. In only the short time that the Iraqis have had control of the area, the  Marines with 2nd LAR Bn. have seen a difference.

“Having them here to eliminate the flow of drugs and oil smuggling is beneficial because they’re denying the enemy use of the terrain,” said Parker, from Bellville, Ohio. “Ever since they’ve taken over the battlespace, there has been a dramatic decrease of problems in that area.”

The Iraqis have devoted their energy to shutting down all insurgent activities in the area, thwarting oil smuggling, and uncovering weapons caches. Though they just started, they look to make a difference in the security of the region before long.

“We have been benefiting from tips that had been passed from the Iraqi troops and Coalition forces,” said Iraqi Army 2nd Lt. Yassir Klakmil Almashidny, 21, an infantry officer with 3rd Bn., 29th Iraqi Army Brigade. “We have what we need to stop the insurgents.”

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