FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Looking down Fallujah’s streets, one sees men going about their daily labors, market stand owners busily conducting transactions, and children playing amongst ruins from past conflicts. One may think the war in the city ended last year, and its residents have returned to living day-to-day life.
For Spc. David Lange, however, the fight continues. Its not one to conquer territory or destroy an enemy anymore, but a battle to rebuild the lives of the citizens who lost what little they had during last year’s conflict.
As a civil affairs specialist with Team “Regulators,” Company B, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, currently the Army civil affairs team in direct support of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, the 21-year-old Livermore, Calif. native’s unit is on the frontlines of Fallujah everyday, fighting to rebuild the city’s infrastructure.
“When we first got to this area, we had a few problems with people spitting and throwing rocks at us,” the 2002 Livermore High School graduate said. “We had a good heart-to-heart talk with (the people) here, and haven’t had a problem since.”
Lange added that these positive changes are in part due to the missions he and his team accomplish every day, those of rebuilding the city.
On May 31, Lange’s team assessed local contractors’ restorations of the Marjan School here.
His command had hired these contractors to renovate aspects of the school, to include repainting the walls, re-tarring the roof and installing new electric wiring throughout. Additionally, they emplaced 15 new toilets, two sinks, five wooden doors, and replaced the school’s two main gate doors.
“You name it, they did it,” Lange said. “I was in charge of making sure everything went okay, and of inspecting the work they (contractors) did. I just made sure that everything that was in the contract happened. So far, we’ve worked with really good contractors and haven’t run into any real problems.”
After the assessment was complete, school children expressed their gratitude by gathering in the courtyard to sing songs, including Iraq’s national anthem.
Faculty also thanked the troops for their efforts.
“The school needed improvement, and the soldiers helped us out,” said a school official. “The students here are very smart and have great teachers, so I think their futures will be bright. However, education is not only for Fallujah, but for all of Iraq. I wish this sort of progress to happen in all of Iraq as well.”
Indeed it is, as numerous Marine and Army civil affairs teams like Lange’s work throughout every U.S. military operational area in the country.
Lange said he and his fellow civil affairs soldiers have seen how smaller-scale projects, such as improving the Marjan School, have led to big changes in Fallujah.
“I’ve seen big changes in the community. When we first got to the city, people were chanting stuff about hating America, and we didn’t get a single wave from anybody. Now, you see kids running down the street, shouting and cheering us on. I’ve seen a complete turnaround.”