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Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

3/4, Local leaders work to better Fallujah

3 May 2005 | Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins Jr.

As stability and security returns here, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, work alongside local district leaders (Muktars) to help rebuild the worn-torn city.Their consolidated resources are being used to improve the living conditions so citizens can move forward in creating a prosperous society.The Muktars are volunteers from the community who have stepped forward to represent the people in their area. These leaders meet with representatives from the battalion weekly to discuss the needs of the community and how to best meet those needs.“We discuss missing persons, relief organizations, electricity, water, trash…” said Army Capt. John D. Naastad, the 35-year-old team chief for Civil Affairs Team Alpha 1, who is attached to the battalion. In these meetings, the team serves as a link between the Muktars and the department heads of Iraqi organizations. These organizations, such as the Department of Housing and Roads, Department of Electricity and Department of Water, are in place to assist the people of Fallujah. “We’re hoping to establish a working relationship between the department heads and the district leaders,” Naastad said. “We’re hoping to take a step back and let the people fix the problems in the city.”Although the battalion looks to be less visual in these meetings, the companies living within the city will still be approachable, Naastad said.The two-way road of communication is a valuable asset to both the community and the Marines providing security in Fallujah.“We’ll be able to get information to the people, and the citizens will tell the district leaders things they won’t tell a patrol,” said Capt. Joseph M. Turgeon, 32-year-old commanding officer of Company K.Although the meetings are showing great promise, the effort is still in its beginning stages. Only three meetings have been held with a significant presence of local leaders.“We’re still trying to make sure there is a district leader to cover all the areas,” said Turgeon, a native of Cathlamat, Wash.The latest meeting contained more than a dozen local leaders representing almost two thirds of the people living in the battalion’s area of operations. “We went from having no representation to having chosen leaders all in one place to discuss the city’s problems,” Naastad said. With the assistance of the city’s new district leaders, the battalion will continue to help the people of Fallujah to rebuild their way of life.