News

Marines, Iraqi government bringing water, light to Iraqi community

28 Aug 2004 | Sgt. Matt Epright

Working to rebuild Iraq one village at a time, Marines and a local Iraqi government official here signed several contracts, valued at $146,000, to improve the quality of life for residents of a nearby community Aug. 25, 2004.

Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, awarded the contracts to Thayer Hamdallah, the district manager for the Khalidiyah district, to pay for the construction of a water purification system, outdoor lighting, a large generator and even a flagpole with an Iraqi flag for North Al Majarrah, Iraq.

The 250-person community, made up of mobile-home-style trailers, serves as housing for the service and security personnel working at a nearby government-owned resort, said Maj. David C. DeVore, the battalion's intelligence officer.

They only have power in the town for about one hour per day, and while they do have a water source, the water from it is not healthy to drink.

Originally, French construction engineers lived in the trailers while they were building the lakeside retreat exclusively for members of Saddam Hussein's regime, and then left the trailers vacant for many years. Now the interim Iraqi government assigns the trailers to the workers, and the resort is open to all of the Iraqi people, said DeVore, a 38-year-old St. Louis native.

Elements of the reserve infantry battalion, which provide security for nearby Camp Taqaddum, headquarters of the 1st Force Service Support Group, have funded numerous improvements for communities in the area.

As with past contracts, the equipment will be purchased from and the work done by the Iraqi people. The Marines' desire is for most of the workers to come from nearby villages, to provide jobs for the area, said Maj. Luke W. Kratky, who gets the contracts approved for the battalion.

The money for the contracts came from funds appropriated from American tax dollars as part of an $87 billion Iraqi aid package approved by Congress in November 2003.

The Marines made an initial payment of $117,000 to Hamdallah for the contracts. They will monitor the progress of construction and pay the remainder of the money when the job is finished.

Work is scheduled to begin on the project in about a week, said Hamdallah, 28.

These will be among the last contracts 3/24 awards, as the 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, an artillery unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will soon be relieving it, said Kratky, a 33-year-old native of Fenton, Mo.

Two Marines from the 4th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, accompanied the 3/24 Marines. The reserve artillery unit, headquartered in Bessemer, Ala., is here to augment 2/10, said Gunnery Sgt. A. J. Bork, a platoon sergeant with 4/14 and a 32-year-old native of Hudson, Fla.

The new arrivals shadowed the veterans in order to see how the contracting process works, so they can continue what 3/24 started, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael G. Lee, 34, a platoon commander with 4/14 and native of Birmingham, Ala.

Headquartered in Bridgeton, Mo., 3/24 has awarded contracts worth around $350,000 for numerous improvements to the communities near Camp Taqaddum, including the purchase of a generator, school repairs and school equipment for the village of Al Kabani, and a water purification complex, which serves Al Kabani and two other nearby communities.

The battalion has also visited Al Kabani on many occasions to deliver shoes, school supplies and candy donated by friends and family in the United States.

"We've done a lot of good things out here," said Cpl. Jesse C. Kuschel, a 23-year-old native of Springfield, Mo., who assists Kratky with the contracts.
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