BLT 2/1 amplifies pre-election presence in Hit

6 Dec 2005 | Cpl. Andy Hurt

After conducting offensive sweeps in the Eastern Euphrates River Valley here, Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, have drastically increased a Coalition presence in preparation for the upcoming democratic elections.The upkeep of security and stability operations in the region is designed to maintain open communications from the interim government to citizens in the hopes of maximum participation in the elections, slated for Dec. 15. In the midst of the SASO operations are the Marines from 1st Platoon, Company G. Operating from a small command center in the heart of the city here, the platoon is currently conducting continuous patrols and vehicle checkpoints alongside Iraqi Security Forces.The intent of the heavy saturation of the city, according to 1st Lt. Jon Frerichs, 1st Plt. commander, is to restore a Coalition presence the city has not seen since a Marine assault in early 2004.“They have not had this kind of presence since we initially came into Hit,” said Frerichs.The Wheaton, Ill., native currently oversees all 1st Plt. operations after a turnover from U.S. Army forces within the city, and said he foresees successful results as the elections draw near.“The general opinion is that (citizens) are exited to vote,” he said.Old-world idealism and organized crime still plague local influence however, and Frerichs is encouraging his Marines to have as much local interaction as possible.“There’s that hesitation to see if the key leaders are going to vote … and we’re still finding anti-voting messages,” he said.To counter anti-voting rhetoric, 1st Plt. Marines are identifying messages through interpreters and covering or destroying propaganda media, such as spray-painted walls.The integration of ISF, said Frerichs, has also been a key aspect to supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on a larger scale – helping a nation in its infancy stand on it’s feet.“I would say that 1st Plt., with the ISFs, is more like a company … and we’re seeing an almost three-to-one ratio of ISFs to Marines.”
13th Marine Expeditionary Unit