QARYAT AL JAFFAH, Iraq (Sept. 14, 2004)--
Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, and
2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, conducted a civil affairs
mission by visiting residents here Sept. 12, 2004.
The morning visit to the town of a few hundred was part of an
ongoing effort to strengthen community relations between the
Marines and the citizens of Iraq.
“This is our chance to help at the grassroots level,” said Maj.
Luke W. Kratky, 3/24’s information officer and 33-yr-old native of
Kratky, and his future replacement, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dwight
Torres, 2/10's information officer, walked the streets with a
translator in hopes of interacting with community leaders.
Around sunrise, the Marines left Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, where they
are based, with the goal of talking to the town’s sheik. On a
previous visit, the Marines gave the sheik a water bladder to
provide the town with potable water. Marines later discovered he
was selling the water for profit, not allowing the locals to use
it as intended. When confronted, the sheik destroyed the bladder.
While the sheik eluded the Marines during this visit, they were
still able to talk to locals about future projects they are
planning and get opinions about what the town needs. Projects
discussed included pumping clean water to the town and helping
rebuild a rundown school.
The Marines hope to provide school supplies before school starts
later this month, said Lt. Col. Michael H. Gellick, 45, a liaison
officer assigned to the 4th Civil Affairs Group.
This visit was better than the last, said Gellick, a Cleveland
native. Just two weeks ago, Marines had to knock on doors to get
people to come out and talk, and gifts from the Marines were
destroyed in the street.
This time around, Iraqi men and children approached the Marines to
engage in conversations, demonstrating a willingness to work with
their military neighbors. The gifts brought this time – soccer
balls, foam footballs, softballs and baseballs – were graciously
accepted and played with while the Marines were there.
Qaryat al Jaffah is one of three towns that 3/24, a St.Louis-based
reserve unit, has focused on establishing good relations with
since their deployment earlier this year. With their deployment
coming to an end next month, they are preparing their newly
arrived replacements of 2/10, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for the
Producing results for the local community reaffirms that the
Marines are here to help the Iraqi people rebuild their villages,
said Torres, 35, of Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico.
Both units are currently assigned to the 1st Force Service Support
Group and are responsible for providing security around Camp
Taqaddum and other bases throughout Iraq.
The 1st FSSG provides the logistical support for the I Marine
Expeditionary Force, which is currently in command of all Marine
forces operating in Iraq.
(Editor's note: 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment's companies
are geographically separated from the battalion headquarters. They
are based in Springfield, Mo., Broken Arrow, Okla., Nashville and
Johnson City, Tenn. and Terre Haute, Ind.)