BARWANAH, Iraq -- The Marines of Team 6, Detachment 3, 6th Civil Affairs Group, take a page out of their own nation’s history books by working to give the power back to the people here.
In America’s early years, the idea of a free country was based on giving people the power to make their own community’s decisions. It is no different here, where the civil affairs Marines work each day to put the city’s future in the hands of community leaders.
“We are in the process of turning over all the reconstruction projects the city needs done to the people,” commented Chief Warrant Officer Cody Simpson, a Desoto, Texas, native and team leader of Team 6. “The idea is to give the people the power to make their own decisions to make their communities a better place to live.”
The team works alongside the Marines of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, who continue to destroy the tools of insurgency in the area by finding caches. The civil affairs Marines help by being a link between the Marines and the community.
“We are the liaison between Company L and the citizens of Barwanah,” said Sgt. Phon Phasavath, an Upper Darby, Pa., native and team sergeant for Team 6. “When we go out, we try to reassure them that we are here for their safety and not to run their lives.”
The team continually assesses damaged houses and property they will reimburse the owners for. They hand out money to people whose property was damaged by Coalition Forces.
While patrolling, they use their interpreter to identify the troubles people are having. They also talk with local businessmen about ways to improve their businesses.
“It is also good to have a pulse on the community you work in,” said Simpson, who is a Desoto police officer.
The team holds bi-weekly meetings with the city council and has recently decided to have individual meetings with each council member to teach and mentor them on how to make their communities better.
“If we teach them how to fix things in the community themselves, then they don’t have to depend on us to do things for them,” Simpson said.
Before the team arrived to the area, the city of Haditha was the hub for the community to get things they needed to live normal lives. Since then, it has become much harder for the people to travel to Haditha due to bridges and roads closed because of insurgent activity.
“We want Barwanah to become a self-sufficient city,” Simpson added. “We are working to get the things they need to accomplish this.”
Approximately 18 projects are lined up, like a new bank, phone center and hospital; things the city is still dependant upon Haditha for. Other projects also include a new power station, water pump station, mosques and police stations for future police forces in the area.
“We want to be able to bring them up to a level where we feel confident the community can work out any problems they have and we are just here to oversee things,” Simpson added.