HADITHA, Iraq -- Seven members of 6th Civil Affairs Group, Detachment 3, Team 5 spend each day here helping rebuild a war-torn city so people can live normal lives again.
As the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment continue to clear the city of roadside bombs and any remaining insurgent operations, the Marines and interpreter of civil affairs talk with citizens and work on projects to restore their city.
Detachment 3, which is comprised of more than 30 Marines, works throughout the Al Anbar province helping the Iraqi local governments legitimize themselves and also assist the Iraqi people with civil-military operations. These operations include working with local engineers and contractors to repair the city’s infrastructure.
Currently, the members of Team 5 are working with residents in the former insurgent-controlled city repairing water pipes, a hospital and creating employment for the people. With the upcoming elections, the team is also on hand to assist the Iraqi people with security needs during the elections if requested.
“We are supposed to be completely hands off, but available if they want help organizing or providing security for it,” said Sgt. Michael T. Lamoureux, a Santa Ana, Calif. native and civil affairs team noncommissioned officer for the detachment.
Lamoureux added that after the insurgency in Haditha scared off local tribal, religious and political leaders months ago, the team is attempting to find and bring back the leaders, letting them know that Marines are working in the city.
“We talk with local leaders to find out their needs and concerns,” said Lamoureux. “They are really the voice of the people.”
Meeting with the leaders and talking with other people in the city also brought up other concerns that the team is trying to address. One such concern is just being able to go to work each day, something that most people around the world take for granted.
“The dam manager let us know his workers couldn’t get to work some days, so we arranged buses to bring them to the dam,” said Sgt. Ronald R. Roberson Jr., a Greensboro, N.C., native and the team’s chief. “We are also helping the dam workers get parts for the dam so they can keep things operating there.”
Before arriving to Iraq to provide civil affairs support, the team went through months of training to learn about the religion, culture, history and language of Iraq. The Marines were also put through training that dealt with certain situations they would encounter while in Iraq.
Even with extensive training, being able to assist the people here can be a problem due to the language barrier. Alleviating this problem is the team’s interpreter, Sam Nseir, who acts as the voice of the team.
“Having an interpreter is a huge asset, without Sam we wouldn’t be able to do any of this,” commented Roberson. “The people really like him and he lets us know how people feel about us being here.”
According to Nseir, most people in the communities here are happy to see the Marines in the city and the insurgents gone. As each day passes, the people become more used to the Marines patrolling the streets and feel they can go on with their daily lives.
“They are still a little uneasy about us,” commented Roberson. “So each time we go out, we bring soccer balls, toys and candy to give to the children.”
Roberson continued, “Spending time talking with the kids is also the most rewarding part of the job out here.”