HAQLANIYAH, Iraq -- Three members of 6th Civil Affairs Group, Detachment 2, Team 3, patrolled the streets here Nov. 30 to assess certain houses for damages inflicted by coalition forces during recent battles with insurgents.
But like every patrol, their mission constantly changes when people start coming out of their homes to talk to the team members. Around every corner is another person who wants to talk them about damages to their own house, car, etc…
“Once the word gets out we are around talking to people, they all come out and try to get money for damages,” commented SSgt. Joshua D. Vandiver, a Redding, Calif. native and civil affairs team chief. “There is only so much we can do in one day so we have to tell them we will be back.”
With Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment setting up security at each house, the team members went through numerous houses assessing damages to be reimbursed later. Since no money was brought with them, the citizens were given claims cards to be brought to the team’s center of operations.
While personal property is important to rebuilding the city, the team is also working to improve the infrastructure. Legitimizing the local government, fixing shops, and getting the hospital and police operating again are the main concerns of the five-man team.
“We are trying to get all the basic necessities in the city operational so the people can go back to living normal lives,” commented the 29 year-old Vandiver.
One project the team passed by while on patrol was a leaking water pipe that needed to be fixed. Vandiver, a city public works employee for his hometown, was able to use his skills from his civilian job and apply it to the town here and help the people get what they needed to fix the water problem.
Since arriving over a month ago, the team has already been working with the local tribal council and began a trash removal project to keep the streets here clean. Another project working with members of the community was to get rid of anti-coalition graffiti on the walls around the houses.
“They have to learn to be accountable for there own property,” said Vandiver. “If someone writes something on the wall near their house, it makes the Marines want to go in and find out who wrote it.
“They make sure people don’t write that stuff on their property, then the Marines won’t have any reason to come in their house.”
Helping the team with their work is Haydar “Mike” Al-Assadi, the civil affairs interpreter who acts as the mouthpiece of the team. With communication being one of the biggest challenges faced here, “Mike” an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen, helps the team get their mission accomplished.
“Having him around really helps us communicate effectively with the people,” said 1st Lt. Pete J. Amadi, an Imo State, Nigeria native and civil affairs team commander.
Speaking is not the only form of communication the team uses when out on the patrols through communities. Something as simple as a piece of candy or a toy given to a child says many things to the parents.
“We try to bring candy, book bags or toys on each patrol we go on” commented “Mike,” who when not with family in Iraq, lives in Detroit. “It is great seeing the expressions on the faces of little boys and girls.”
There are still many more months of working with the community ahead to bring the town back to normal. But with the help of the civil affairs team here and cooperation in the community, the town will flourish again.
“If there is one thing I would like to see being done before we leave here, it would be that the people become accountable for there own community and ward off the insurgency,” commented Vandiver. “Most of the people just want to have peace and live normal lives again. That can’t happen if they don’t do it for themselves.”