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PSF helps tip scales in Marines’ favor

HIT, Iraq (March 16, 2008) – A grayish plume filled a small area and another cache of weapons was destroyed in Iraq today.

http://www.mnfwest.usmc.mil/MNF/mnfw_IM.nsf/(ArticlesRead)/B9D50B8D59C8C463432574160037B2B7

By Cpl. Erik Villagan

Marines with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5, provided security as Explosive Ordnance Disposal ridded them of their small problem.

“We got a tip from the PSF (Provisional Security Force) that there was a weapons cache,” said Staff Sgt. Ernesto A. Hernandez, 29, a section leader with Company I from Los Angeles. “We went out there to verify and took the PSF with us to make it a joint effort. We want them to get the recognition for finding it.”

Marines with Mobile Assault Platoon 1, Company I, followed a PSF truck, filled with Iraqi PSF troops, through Hit until they reached the site. They weaved through the city carefully like they would during mobile patrols in the town. When they arrived, Marines verified the unexploded ordnance, commonly referred to as UXO, and called EOD.

“We found artillery propellant when we got out there. Propellant is what makes the artillery rounds go,” Hernandez said. “We also found a 155 mm artillery round. They were just stashing it. It wasn’t hooked up to anything.”

EOD quickly disposed of the propellant with an incendiary grenade. The 155 mm round presented minimal threat, so EOD put it in their truck to be destroyed later.

The Iraqi troops said they were grateful that Marines were able to help them rid the city of dangerous materials.

“It’s good to have Marines to help us take weapons away from the insurgents,” said an Iraqi soldier, who wished to remain anonymous, through an interpreter. “If we work together we can keep the city safe.”

The cache was not as large as the MAP 1 Marines had hoped, but they were pleased to remove it.

“The (PSF) gives us tips at times,” said Cpl. John R. Hutchins, a 21-year-old squad leader with Company I from Lansing, Mich. “When they give us information, it’s not always what we expect.”

Despite the disappointment from Marines on not finding a larger cache, they understood the importance of the PSF coming to them for support. Not all tips will be big finds, but they may eventually lead to something important.

“They have first hand interaction with the people, so their tips are helpful,” Hernandez said. “Some of their tips may just be rumors, but at least they’re telling us about them.”

The information currently being provided is a luxury Marines didn’t enjoy very often during the battalions last deployment. It is a welcomed surprise this time around.

“Last time (the PSF) didn’t get into it as much,” Hernandez. “Now, they’re all over the place. They are taking an active role out there.”

Both Marines and PSF benefited from destroying the UXO.

“We found ordnance, something we want to find so other people can’t use it against us,” Hutchins said. “It also helps with the gradual push of getting the PSF to trust us.”

When the puff of smoke cleared, one could clearly see by the way the PSF and Marines were interacting with each other that the Marines are well on their way to earning that trust.