Coalition forces launched an operation April 2 to clear and secure the market area in Baqubah, Iraq, in order to reestablish the city's economic center.

Soldiers of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., maintained a continuous 24-hour presence in the area, called Old Baqubah, during the first four days of the operation while they searched for terrorists and weapon caches.

They plan to remain in the neighborhood to assist Iraqi security forces as they establish and man permanent checkpoints to provide security for vendors and shoppers at the marketplace.

"It is important we open up the market place because in order to win the fight against insurgents, we have to establish a good economy," said 1st Lt. Thomas Gaines, 1st Platoon leader, Company A, 5-20th Inf. Regt.

Iraqi police and Iraqi army soldiers plan on controlling the checkpoints and searching vehicles coming in and out of the neighborhood, while the Stryker Soldiers continue to operate in the area.

"We are flooding the area with a presence and making it permanent," Gaines said. "That permanent presence should break up or at least disrupt (insurgent) operations."

The Stryker battalion reported that the operation to secure the market was launched on the advice of the Baqubah city council, which considered it an important step in the progression of the city. Coalition forces hope that more vendors will eventually open their shops in the marketplace and that more civilians will feel safe shopping at the market.

"The market place that we are working out of is one of the main commerce points of the city of Baqubah," said Staff Sgt. Jay M. Thompson, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, Co. A.

Thompson believes that disrupting insurgent operations in Old Baqubah will have an economic influence on the entire city and give hope to all the people who visit the market.

"If everyone comes to this area and sees an immediate improvement, they know it is only a matter of time before it will touch their neighborhood," Thompson said.

People in the area reported a decrease in terrorist activities during the first days of the operation. On the second day of clearing, there were more civilians out on the streets.

"It's very good," said an Iraqi man, whose name has been withheld to protect his identity. "There are less shootings and more security."

Staff Sgt. Jon Matthews, another squad leader with 1st Platoon, said the coalition presence in the area helped encourage people to spend more time outside their houses.

"I believe it makes them feel safer and it gives them more courage to come outside," Matthews said.

Soldiers of Co. A faced little resistance from insurgents during the clearing operation. Staff Sgt. Christopher Lumadue, also a squad leader with 1st Platoon, said he believed the constant presence of the Stryker battalion pushed insurgents out of the area.

"When they see a big force of Americans coming in, they are not going to fight," Lumadue said.

On the fifth day of the operation, engineers with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, emplaced cement barriers throughout the neighborhood to augment security for ISF checkpoints and to prevent the movement of car bombs by insurgents.

Soldiers of the battalion discovered terrorist propaganda and U.S. currency along with several small weapon caches, which included ammunition and bomb-making materials. Coalition forces also detained several suspected insurgents.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16