QALATSUKAR, Iraq -- Songs of joy saying "U.S. Stay" and "this is the end of the suffering" rang out from the people of Qalat Sukar, Iraq in the afternoon of April 7 as Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) rid the town of Ba'ath Party presence.
Earlier that morning, Marines from the 24th MEU rolled into the center of town with the mission to destroy all symbols of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party Regime.
With Marines from Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines providing security, Marines from Combat Engineer Platoon and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team went to work tearing down any pictures of Saddam Hussein and setting them on fire. They searched the town's Secret Police Station, seizing intelligence items and miscellaneous ordnance, and destroyed some Anti-Aircraft Artillery located at the town's Ba'ath Party headquarters. They also removed some weapons and a large amount of ammunition from the headquarters.
"Our mission was to go in and remove any evidence of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party Regime," said Gunnery Sgt. James L. Clements, Command Element, 24th MEU (SOC). "We also demonstrated to the local populous that the coalition is here to liberate them from Ba'ath Party control."
When the Marines entered the town, they encountered no resistance and found the targeted buildings empty. One of the pictures was already defaced before the Marines got to it.
"I think the operation went well," said Clements. "Many of the people were passing out flowers to the Marines and thanking them for the work they did. They were very supportive."
One key element of keeping the local people under control were the soldiers of the 312th Psychological Operations Company, 2nd Psychological Operations Group, attached the 24th MEU (SOC).
"The Psy Ops guys played a message that told the people not to interfere with the Marines and that they were not there to harm them," said Clements.
Evidence of the Mission's success was apparent as the Marines were driving away. More than 1000 people from all parts of the town were rushing to the edge of the secure area, waving at the Marines and giving them the thumbs up. They were also chanting, singing and thanking them.
"I think an operation like this opens the door for additional operations, like Civil Affairs Projects," said Clements. This may include setting up medical and dental clinics for village residents, and providing fresh water.