Marines: Task to Rebuild Iraq
By Cpl. Shawn
AL KUT, Iraq
– In the aftermath of the war, Iraqi people are left without
any kind of a police force or community assistance programs. Forced
to rely solely on themselves for simple things like water, food,
fuel and civil peace, the future of most communities, like Al
Kut, is unsure. Elements of Task Force Tarawa, based out of Camp
Lejeune, N.C., are taking the first steps in restoring safety
to the community and helping the locals step out of the shadow
of Saddam Hussein’s former regime.
The two missions
TFT has taken on recently are clearing anti-aircraft artillery
and munitions from a public park and salvaging abandoned fuel
trailers to transport fresh water to civilians.
trying to have the lives of the people here return to as normal
a state as possible,” said Lt. Col. Doug P. Thomas, the
commanding officer of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade Headquarters
Group and the TFT headquarters commandant. The Potomac, Md., native,
continued “although many of these people have only known
the oppression of Saddam’s regime their whole lives.”
other Marine from MHG’s motor transport and explosive ordnance
disposal units spent two days picking up explosive ordnance in
the public park, and removing 16 anti-aircraft artillery guns.
Using heavy machinery, the guns were lifted onto trucks and taken
out of the park to be destroyed in a remote area.
better place to put these weapons than in a place where children
and families congregate,” said Gunnery Sgt. Alan Weivel,
the Non-commissioned officer in charge of the removal. “The
(Iraqi Army) knew we couldn’t bomb this place, so we could
never destroy the weapons from above. So we have to do it by land.”
kids and ammunition don’t mix, Weivel stated the kids were
playing with the unexploded ordnance. Weivel and other Marines
feel they did a great thing by removing the weapons and ammunition
so families could congregate on the park’s grounds again
feels good to make a difference, to know that what you did actually
helped a family out there,” said Cpl. Joseph C. Berg, a
motor transport mechanic with TFT. The Mobile, Ala. Native, continued
“the kids we saw today all thanked us, and I hope they enjoy
their park again.”
park was not the only place Marines found rusted out machinery.
On the sides of roads, it is not an uncommon sight to see broken
down or stuck vehicles, abandoned by their owners.
taking these two junk trucks, which were both sunk past their
wheels in the mud, digging them out, fixing them up, and giving
them back to the Iraqi people to transport drinking water in,”
said Chief Warrant Officer Travis C. Michell, a motor transport
maintenance officer with TFT. The Charleston, S.C. native went
on to say “it was nine and a half hours of tough work just
to get one truck out, but when we get it up and running and turn
it over to the people, it’ll be worth it.”
of a radio battalion in TFT used shovels, chains, and ingenuity
to get the fuel tanker out of the ground. Pulling with a 7-ton
truck and a humvee, they freed the fuel-leaking trailer from the
muddy, diesel soaked earth. Once it was freed, locals from the
village of Sbah, a community on the outskirts of Al Kut, stopped
by to see if they could fill their barrels with the precious fuel.
the Marines had no need for the fuel inside, so it was good that
the villagers would get use out of it before the truck was turned
from a fuel truck into a water truck.
people can’t get gas out here. Saddam took all the oil and
gave it to the military, so the fuel we’re giving away today
to these people is probably worth a couple month’s work
for them,” said Sgt. Matthew E. Schettler, an Arab linguist
with the radio battalion. The Charlotte, N.C. native, continued
“These villagers will use the fuel for their tractors and
generators and trucks. This free fuel is a real find, something
they’ll tell their grandchildren about.”
spoke with the village leader, Abu Jasam, about the fuel.
says it is a great blessing to get all this fuel. He’s filling
up every barrel in the village with it,” Schettler translated
for Jasam. “They are all very happy that Saddam’s
rule is over. They’re looking forward to a new life.”
people are all very happy we are here, and the words Marines hear
over and over are ‘Bad Saddam, good Bush,’ said Thomas.
The Marines are glad they are making a difference, and look forward
to the next time they can lend a hand to help rebuild the surrounding
communities, he added.