Wednesday, August 09, 2006

HADITHA MARINES YOU NEVER HEAR ABOUT

Marines work to improve living conditions,
infrastructure in Iraq’s Haditha Triad region.
HADITHA, Iraq (May 14, 2006)

Maj. Chris K. Mace loves to hand out cash. The
38-year-old leads a handful of Marines who spend
their days rebuilding schools, hospitals and giving
monetary reimbursement to Iraqis whose property has
been damaged during three years worth of combat
operations.

“We have made a lot of progress, but there is still
a lot more to be made,” said Mace, a Pottstown, Pa.,
native who leads one of 17 civil affairs teams
operating throughout Al Anbar Province. “We are going
to make as big an impact on the community as we can.”

Detachment One of the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 3rd
Civil Affairs Group, which is comprised of more than 30
Marines, works throughout Al Anbar Province with local
government officials, sheikhs, mayors and other key
leaders to identify and jumpstart various reconstruction
and quality of life projects designed to rebuild damaged
infrastructure in the region.

“As security and stability increase, the willingness of
the local populace to cooperate with us will as well,”
said Mace. Six months ago, insurgents would have intimidated
and threatened any potential local contractors with death or
kidnapping for cooperating with Coalition Forces, said Mace.

But as security in the region continues to improve, so does
the potential for progress for the Marines to freely work
with local engineers and contractors to complete reconstruction
and infrastructure projects, which also help fuel the local
economy by providing jobs to local workers.
That, in turn, helps “honest and hardworking men” support
their families, said Mace.

Most recently, Mace and his Marines went to several schools
in the region and repaired doors and windows which were
damaged by insurgents, said Mace.

A principal at one of the local elementary schools said the
students were in dire need of basic school supplies such as
paper, markers and pencils. The Marines delivered with
hundreds of pencils, markers, backpacks embroidered with
cartoon characters, erasers and paper notebooks.

Staff Sgt. Omar Palaciosreal, a 32-year-old from San
Bernardino, Calif., and a civil affairs team chief, says
small projects such as delivering school and medical supplies
can have just as much of an impact on local infrastructure as
larger reconstruction projects.

“That school had nothing but a chalkboard in it and the
teachers had to give lessons with only that commodity,” said
Palaciosreal. “It was a sad sight and I believe we made it better.”

“Many of the local people realize the Marines are good people
and are concerned with their wellbeing,” said an Iraqi interpreter
assigned to work with Mace and his team of Marines. “The Marines
have begun to build good rapport with the residents and this opens
the door for us to communicate with them.”

According to Mace, these cleanups not only provide paying jobs to
locals, but also prevent health risks that stem from bacteria
generated from excessive garbage and stagnant water, which children
are exposed to when they play in neighborhoods with such conditions.

“You earn a lot of credibility when you show residents you care
about their well-being and their children,” said Palaciosreal.

seiglemf@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil.

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