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Photo Information

Haqlaniyah, Al Anbar, Iraq.-- Cpl. Kennedy inflates soccer balls in the back of a Humvee for Iraqi children. Soccer balls are a favorite among the kids. Marines handed out other items like school supplies and Beanie Babies. Some parents received four or five bags of school supplies for all their children. (Photo by LCpl. Marc Fencil. )

Photo by Lance Cpl. Marc Fencil

5th CAG, 3/25 assists citizens of Haqlaniyah, Iraq;

27 Apr 2005 | Lance Cpl. Marc Fencil

The Marines navigated the streets near the riverside here bearing Beanie Babies, school supplies and soccer balls.Marines from Team 4, Detachment 4, 5th Civil Affairs Group and 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines came to meet local citizens and community leaders to discuss rebuilding the infrastructure of the city.The CAG team rolled into town with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines bearing Beanie Babies, school supplies, and soccer balls. “We are not middlemen for policymaking,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Paul L. Atherton, Detachment 4 chief and a combat engineer from Bloomsburg, Pa. “Our mission is to help them rebuild their villages, towns, and cities to create a working infrastructure, which is conducive to the peoples’ ability to self-govern.” The bulk of what the civil affairs team does is project dependant, said Atherton, who accompanied the team throughout the operation to observe and offer guidance. “Today we could be recruiting doctors to come to work at a hospital and tomorrow we could be making arrangements for paving a road,” said Atherton, who is 48 and a 25-year veteran of the Corps.As the team stopped throughout the city, children flocked to the back of their Humvee, where Marines were inflating soccer balls with a hand pump. Marines handed plastic bags full of school supplies, stuffed animals, and soccer balls to dozens of Iraqi children and their parents.“I would have blown up all these soccer balls before we came out if space wasn’t a concern,” said Cpl. Kris G. Oliver, a 23-year-old combat engineer from Baltimore. “These kids are the future of Iraq and they are going to remember how the Americans treated them long after we have left.”Afterwards, the team drove around the eastern part of the city to individual households to assess claims that were turned into the CAG team through the battalion’s Iraqi liaison coordination center. The CAG team organizes town hall style meetings to provide a forum for political and religious leaders to discuss community politics and the local economy.The team analyses claims carefully to make the most efficient use of reconstruction funds. Payments are only made if Iraqi or coalition forces directly caused the property damage while operating in the area. Citizens are not compensated for damages resulting from insurgent attacks.“We don’t pay for the messes that the insurgents created. That’s all on them,” explained Lance Cpl. Jason R. Riggio, a field wireman and native of Dana Point, Calif. “The majority of the people over here just want a peaceful place to live and raise their families in a decent environment,” said the 19-year-old, 2003 Dana Hills High graduate. “The civil affairs mission aims to aid that and minimizes the impact of the war on ordinary Iraqis.” said the 19-year-old 2003 Dana Hills High graduate.