ALBU KHALID, Iraq --
The eventual transition of authority from Coalition Forces to the people of Iraq will be completed through hard work, cooperative exercises, training and the people’s confidence in their country’s own security.
Iraqi soldiers with the 1st Iraqi Army Division and Coalition Forces came one step closer to the realization of this goal here, Oct. 20, during an Iraqi-led combined medical engagement.
Marines with Weapons and Headquarters and Support companies, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, along with Navy corpsmen from Camp Fallujah, came together to conduct the CME led by the soldiers of 2nd Bn., 3rd Brigade, 1st IA Division.
“This is what we must do for our country and our people,” said Iraqi army Lt. Hammed Najam, gesturing to his countrymen gathering around the school. “This is a small tax to keep these people’s area safe so we can do a CME.”
Outside, near an abandoned building, was a secluded area for Iraqi females to be searched by female Marines from Camp Fallujah. A tent was erected to provide shade.
“Weapons’ Marines have set up this netting to give these ladies with babies and the older folks out here some shade,” said Master Sgt. Shaun E. Haynes, the operations chief for the company. “But our main mission, and also the Iraqi army’s, is to provide the security around this general area and to help out wherever we can. This lets them know we aren’t here to fight them, but that we all came together and together we can do this. These types of operations give the people a chance to see that their army can help and protect them.”
After being cleared to enter the school, the men, women and children began receiving initial medical screening by sailors like Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael J. Wetter, a 23-year-old Navy corpsman with H&S Co. This was a detailed and important process that allowed Americans and Iraqi doctors to provide medical care in a secure environment.
“We are working in conjunction with the Iraqi Security Forces in order to both extend their influence and demonstrate to the local populous that they can make a change in the lives of their countrymen,” said Wetter, an Orange County, Calif., native and 2000 graduate of Billa Park High School. “We all like doing this because it makes us feel like we are doing something productive and really benefiting the people.”
Gathering not too far from Wetter, women lined up against the dusty walls with children in tow to receive treatment and diagnosis by the corpsman. The men did the same, but in separate lines and separate areas. Children big and small met up with their friends while they waited to receive care. They joked around with the Marines and Iraqi soldiers, who sometimes surprised the children with small gifts, including school supplies, pencils and also informative pamphlets on hygiene and health concerns.
“We were handing out hygiene flyers to the adults also,” said Cpl. Richard R. Klun, the 21-year-old battalion legal chief with H&S Co. “Plus, we handed out pencils to the kids, who loved it. Overall, I think it was a good turnout and the Iraqi army did an excellent job, they knew what to do and got done what needed to get done.”
This seemingly simple exercise provided both the Iraqi army and Coalition Forces with something more than just a warm feeling at the end of the day. By spending time with the locals, the Iraqi soldiers gathered information on the insurgency and were given the chance to learn more about the people of the town; where they work, what their biggest problems are and how they live, said Najam.
“I enjoy everything to do with this,” said the Baghdad native. “I am Iraqi and I like to help my people. Because we are in charge now, we must step up to both help our people and fight the insurgents, and God willing, people will be healthier after this and benefit from us more.”
The people’s support is essential to the continued peace and security in the area, said Maj. Hadi Atya, an officer with 1st IA Division, adding the newfound peace is what allows progress to grow and operations like the CME possible.
“We have all worked very hard to make this area what it used to be,” said Atya, who has led multiple CMEs. “Now we can help the locals and gain their support, but most of all this time we have here corrects a false image, provided by the insurgency, that my men and the coalition forces are bullies. This is untrue. To the terrorists we must be feared, to the people we must be looked to for help. I want us to be as an eagle to the terrorists and a dove to the people. By doing this I dream that I will someday be able to once again take long walks at night and feel at peace. We are very close.”