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Cpl. Robert D. Harrell, a disbursing agent with Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), verifies the accuracy of his lease payment to an Iraqi homeowner Sept. 24. A personal security detachment escorted two disbursing Marines from Camp Taqaddum to a Jazirah schoolhouse where they paid civilians for the Iraqi Army?s use of their homes. Harrell counted and paid out approximately $60,000 with more than 9,000 Iraqi bills during a 5-hour period. A team of Marines acted as advisors while the Iraqi Army supervised all scheduled lease payments without incident.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Ben Eberle

Iraqi civilians receive lease payments

4 Oct 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ben Eberle

Jazirah residents received approximately $60,000 in lease payments during a reimbursement operation conducted by the Iraqi Army here Sept. 24.

The Iraqi Army currently occupies 23 homes in the village, entitling the homeowners to reimbursement, said Capt. David E. Saunders, Military Transition Team advisor with 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division. He and a small group of Marines served as advisors during the reimbursement process.

Lance Cpl. Reuben A. Perales and Cpl. Robert D. Harrell, both disbursing agents with Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), delivered the lease payments. A personal security detachment escorted the two Marines from Camp Taqaddum to a Jazirah schoolhouse where they paid the Iraqi civilians.

“At first, I was just happy to see that we’re helping the Iraqi people,” said Perales, a 21-year-old from Altaloma, Calif. “Now, I’m happy to be a part of it.”

The Marines have participated in several lease-payment operations throughout their time in Al Anbar Province and have seen a variety of reactions from the Iraqi people.

“A lot of people try to bring us gifts ... and I even had one guy tell me that he didn’t need that much money,” said Harrell, a 20-year-old from Winston Salem, N.C. He counted and paid out the $60,000 with more than 9,000 Iraqi bills during the five-hour period.

The homeowners entered the classroom one at a time and received payment once Iraqi Army officials verified their lease agreements.  The lease agreements clearly state the guidelines for payment.

For example, regulations prohibit anyone other than the property owner from receiving payment. Early in the afternoon, a teenage boy came to collect payment on behalf of his father, who was stalled at the Jordanian border. This type of situation is common. 

“Sometimes it’s difficult to travel in Iraq, so we explained that he can go to Camp Habbaniyah’s gate any Thursday from (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) to pick up the payment,” said Saunders, a 27-year-old from Silverdale, Wash.

Saunders works directly with the Iraqi Army and over the last couple of months has expanded his Arabic vocabulary to the point where he can carry on entire conversations. He explained, however, that speaking fluent Arabic is not as important as learning and understanding the Iraqi people and their culture.

The rationale behind making the lease payments is strikingly similar.

“It’s so much more than the money, it’s about getting out there and talking to the public,” said Capt. Tony Garbauskas, assistant team commander for Team 2, 4th Civil Affairs Group supporting 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “We’re thanking them for their support and letting them know that transition is our mission.”

“This is a temporary base,” said Capt. Richard D. Hansen, an operations officer advising 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division. “The Iraqis that own these houses are going to come back.”

As for U.S. military involvement in the repayment process: “We’re just here as advisors,” added Hansen, 38, from Quantico, Va. “The Iraqi Army is running the show.”

The Iraqi Army made all scheduled lease payments without incident.
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