KARABILAH, Iraq --
The sun didn’t stop pounding heat waves into the streets of Karabilah, Iraq while the Marines patrolled on foot into the town. They weren’t going to let a little sun slow them down while they walked through the impoverished area, promoting peace and security for its adults and a never-ending supply of candy for the children.
“Every time we stop at a house, we give candy,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Turner, a team leader with Alpha Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, attached to Regimental Combat Team 2.
Making the children smile is not only a friendly way of interacting with the local populace, it also shows a warmer side of Marines who normally present a vigilant appearance on patrol.
“Sometimes we give them rice, sugar and chai with our own money,” said Turner, a Tacoma, Wash., native.
Many people in town have low-paying jobs or no means of income at all, so the government provides them food to survive but every little bit helps. Helping the people here shows them the Marines care about their well-being and every Iraqi smile shows gratitude.
“They feel better about us when we give them bags of rice and are more willing to give us information,” Turner said.
The information the townspeople give is extremely important in finding the insurgent cells preying on the local populace. The insurgents hardly fight Marines face-to-face in Al Anbar, so every bit of information pieces together evidence to incriminate the insurgents.
Candy, sugar and chai taste sweet, but some people need a little more to survive in this town. A very sick woman, who survived a mortar attack years ago, needed medicine, and the Marines were there to help.
“Her husband didn’t know what to buy from the pharmacy, so I told him what would ease her pain,” said Seaman David Kukreja, a hospital corpsman with Alpha Company.
The medicine would be strong enough to keep the pain down, but unless her family could afford serious medical care, she will have slim chances of surviving her sickness.
“It’s sad, but this help is so she’s comfortable when she passes,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Burgess, a team leader and Las Vegas native with Alpha Company.
Karabala’s citizens are striving for peace and the Marines are willing to bring it to them with a constant presence and medical knowledge if needed.
Although most of the local populace is friendly and grateful for the Marines, there is a hidden enemy presence even during daytime patrol.
“It’s easy to get complacent after going house to house for so long,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy McDaniels, a rifleman and a Eureka, Ark., native, with Alpha Company.
‘Complacency Kills’ is a statement posted on every battle position’s exit as Marines leave on mounted or foot patrols. The Marine Corps constantly stresses a ‘combat mindset’ where each Marine is not only individually aware of his surroundings but is also aware of an unseen threat.
“We’re here for freedom, but I’m here to watch my team’s back when they are talking to the Iraqi people,” said Lance Cpl. Trevor Daniels, a mortarman and Durham, Calif., native, with Alpha Company.
The sun was setting as the Marines walked down the old, dusty roads of Karabilah. Children kicked a soccer ball back and forth and seeing the Marines, they kicked it towards them hoping one of their American neighbors would kick it back to them. A Marine launches the ball back to them, and the children clap their hands in applause. The team’s patrol had ended that day, but Marines will be there that night and the next day to supply small hands with candy and to let the people know Marines are there to keep them safe from the evil that hides within the city.