RAWAH, Iraq --
RAWAH, Iraq- Sagrah is a small, impoverished oasis in Iraq’s western Al Anbar province. The landscape is flat, cold and dry, and the small town has one hospital, but no emergency room. Friendly waves greet Troops from the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces patrol the neighborhoods where old men sit on plastic lawn chairs outside small stores smoking Jordanian cigarettes and returning complimentary gestures of “Salaam” (meaning peace, hello, and goodbye) to the patrollers.
The people here have lead simple lives and learned to live without luxury, but now they can crack a smile again because the Government of Iraq, along with Civil Affairs Team 5, Civil Affairs Group, Regimental Combat Team 8, has helped them build a water canal to irrigate land for farming.
“This irrigation system will be able to water 815 hectares of land,” said 1st Lieutenant Daniel Thomas, the team leader for CAT-5.
Many assessments were made by the civil affairs team and local governing authorities throughout the past year for this canal project alone.
Over $48,000 were put into the 1,000 meter canal where ten-inch pipes connect to the canal through a hand-cranked valve system that allows water to flow into selected patches of soil.
“This should replenish their food and their local economy,” said Thomas, a Santa Barbara, Calif., native.
Thomas, an artillery officer by trade, has learned a new skill set similar to that of a foreman in that he and his civil affairs team assess projects throughout their area of operations. His team is a mix of Marine communicators, food service specialists, artillerymen, and an infantry Marine.
“Being on this team is definitely different,” said Cpl. Kyle Friel, a humvee driver with CAT-5 and Coventry, R.I., native. “Most of us didn’t know what CAG [Civil Affairs Group] was, but its cool working with the different services.”
When CAG would roll out to town, they would always bring along their Army brethren from the 320th Psychological Operations Company, Detachment 1243.
“CAG’s our ticket outside the wire,” said Army Cpl. Daniel Cannon. “We depend on Marines for security and we help them by finding out the public opinion of the projects.”
The canal will help bring water to the barren fields of this small town, and in the spring, the locals will plant seed and care for their fruits and vegetables so that when the seasons change, the markets will have colorful displays of melons, tomatoes, cucumbers and grain.
“Everybody’s got to eat their vegetables,” said Cpl. Darnell Liesinger, a turret gunner with CAT-5 and Sioux Falls, S.D., native.
For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit http://www.mnfwest.usmc.mil