By Lance Cpl. Paul Torres
Regimental Combat Team 5 Public Affairs Officer
AKASHAT, Iraq - One of the insurgents' most formidable weapons is their ability to hide among the people they oppress.
Collecting information has always been important to the war on terror. This is why Marines with Hotel Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 conducted a census in the town of Akashat, Iraq, March 9.
"The census is us just getting information, and it helps us build a relationship with the community," said Sgt. Manuel A. Callejasrodas, 26, from Lynbrook N.Y., who is the platoon commander for Green Platoon, Company H.
Marines with Green Platoon have been patrolling the town of Akashat block by block, talking to the residents of each house.
The man of the house is asked to provide basic information on the residents who live there.
"The census will give us a general idea about where people work, how many people live in each house and what it is they do," said Callejasrodas. "Plus it gives us better eyes-on within the community."
Marines with Company H first took command of Akashat and the surrounding areas from the Army at the beginning of March.
"The information will let us know if any possible insurgents try to stay in one of the houses, we will know if someone doesn't belong there," said Sgt. Jesse Ramirez, 22, from Modesto, Calif., who is the platoon sergeant for Green Platoon, Company H.
The community of Akashat has not always been friendly to Marines on patrol.
"When we first rolled through the city, the (children) would throw rocks at us," said Callejasrodas. "The people were very intimidated at first, but the atmosphere has changed a lot."
The smallest things often make the biggest differences, and for the Marines in Company H, it has been their connection with the children.
"An older man in the city stopped us and told us that as we got in good with the (children), we will get the families to like us, and it is working," said Ramirez.
"It feels good to see that we are making a difference, and you can tell their attitude has changed," said Ramirez.
While conducting the census, children would often come out of their houses and shake the hands of the Marines with smiles on their faces.
"If you show them respect, they will respect you, so we give (the community) updates on what we are trying to do for them in the town," said Ramirez.