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'Operation Greenback' gives Fallujah's residents hope for a brighter tomorrow

27 Mar 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

The children walk atop garbage and cinder blocks, as their fathers haul loads of concrete rubble inside wheelbarrows to dump into piles at the front of their homes. 

On one side of the street a group of women walk along a ruined sidewalk as a Marine patrol strides by them. On the other side stands a bullet hole-riddled, spray paint-tagged wall.

Just another day in the former war-torn city of Fallujah, but one that Iraqi civil-military authorities are working with local security personnel and U.S. Marines to improve.

Aboard a makeshift military compound inside Jolan Park here, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and Regimental Combat Team-8 kicked off Operation Greenback.  Its goal: assist local officials in providing essential financial support for the community to rebuild homes and businesses ruined during the assault on the insurgents occupying Fallujah last year.

"There was a lot of damage caused in the city during the push through Fallujah," said 2nd Lt. Ryan D. Entwistle, the platoon commander for 2nd Platoon, Company B.  "Bravo Company is helping the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) to provide a safe environment for the site while the payments take place."

The 24-year-old Las Cruces, N.M. native's unit and the Iraqi forces provide the Jolan Park area security while local administrators distribute compensation money to Fallujah's residents. 

According to Maj. Brian S. Christmas, the battalion's executive officer, Iraqi officials will distribute Dinars worth approximately $100 million in U.S. dollars to Fallujah residents "over an extended period of time."

Christmas said that Iraqi officials look over a citizen's claim then send people out to their homes and businesses to survey the damage and check for authenticity.  If the claim is legitimate, residents receive an initial payment of 20 percent of the estimated cost to repair damages.

Although Iraqi authorities issue the payments, Marines like Entwistle and his platoon with Company B work hand in hand with ISF personnel to secure the Jolan Park compensation payment issue sight.

"We man several security and observation posts in this area," said the 2002 graduate of John Brown University.  "For now, we (Marines) play a big role in security, but down the road, our plan is to hand it all over to the Iraqi forces."

Until they make this hand over though, the Marines say their partnership with the ISF is an effective one.

"The Iraqi forces are pretty cooperative with us, and they're easy to get along with," said Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Levy, a machine gunner with 4th Platoon, Company B and native of Medford, N.Y.

"The coalition forces are here to help us, so we want to contribute to this (the mission at Jolan Park) as well," stated Bader Khumar, an Iraqi soldier, agreeing with Levy. 

Company B and ISF personnel maintain a strong presence in and around Jolan Park by continually patrolling the streets and alleyways in the area.

In addition to patrolling with the Marines, Entwistle said ISF troops help them out by searching personnel as they enter the park compound, manning numerous security posts, and handling local crowds.

"They've helped us a lot by directing the crowd traffic here," he continued.

Levy added that he too enjoyed working with his host nation allies to help Fallujah's citizens rebuild their city.

"I like protecting the people, making sure it's all safe for them, and watching them rebuild their homes."