HAQLANIYAH, Iraq -- Local Marine leadership met with nine city council members here, Dec. 2, to talk about issues concerning the people of the city.
Fountain Hills, Ariz., native, Capt. James S. Kimber, commanding officer for Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and Iraqi Army officers talked with the council members about many topics affecting the community.
The weekly meeting was held so the people could voice their concerns and to give the commander an opportunity to talk with the people. The cooperation between the two militaries and the citizens of Haqlaniyah helps keep the people within the community safe.
“The community has lots of issues they bring to the table every week,” commented 1st Lt. Pete J. Amadi, an Imo State, Nigeria, native with Team 3, Detachment 2, 6th Civil Affairs Group. “In the past, these meetings have helped to make sure the people had all the supplies they needed when the city was locked down.”
The meeting started out with the mayor, Mahar Difel Awda, and the assistant mayor, Jamal Salah Alasifee, talking about traffic check points and the conduct of Marines and Iraqi soldiers in the city. They commented on the professionalism of both militaries and told Iraqi and U.S. commanders their soldiers were doing a good job thanks to their leadership.
The meeting then went on to discuss who is responsible for various aspects of life in the city. The topics included the upcoming elections, the fixing of clinics and schools, and daily problems in the community.
Kimber, who spent hours fielding these questions, then got a chance to speak to council members about insurgent attacks in the area that destroyed civilian property. He talked about how the people in the community need to pull together and make sure no more of these attacks happen in their city.
“These bad people are the only reason why we are here,” Kimber said. “As soon as these acts stop happening, then you will see no more Marines, only Iraqi soldiers, then no more Iraqi soldiers, just Iraqi police.”
Even though many topics affecting the community were discussed in these meetings, there wasn’t always a council representing the people. When the Marines first got to the city, there was no city council and there was no mayor to be found. In a matter of weeks, it went from no representation to nine members who individually handle different areas of concern.
“At first they were reluctant to meet with us,” said Cpl. Andrew E. McMullen, a civil affairs team non-commissioned officer. “But now we are at the point where they realize we are going to be here for a while and we are here to help too.”
Since the first meeting more than a month ago, there have been approximately 20 meetings with the city council. There are also meetings with sheiks and tribal leaders in the area to discuss concerns of the religious community.
“The sheik meetings we have are more family-oriented than the other meetings,” said McMullen, a Morgantown, Penn., native. “They focus on the family issues that affect the people.”
These meetings signify the constant cooperation between the Marines and the community. This cooperation makes the area safer for the people and works toward making their lives normal again.
“For the first time since we got here, they said thank you to us for meeting with them,” commented Amadi. “The plan we have with them has been working and they realize that the peoples’ opinion matters to us.”