COMBAT OUTPOST RIO LOBO, Iraq --
COMBAT OUTPOST RIO LOBO, Iraq – The most important natural resource for Coalition Forces in Iraq is water.
Combat engineers with Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group, recently teamed up with the leaders of Regimental Combat Team 5’s 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and Iraq’s Ministry of Water to facilitate the building of a new combat outpost here, Aug. 10.
“Building this COP outside Rio Lobo frees up the structures for the Ministry of Water, facilitating the reopening of the water plant,” said 2nd Lt. James R. Armstrong, platoon commander, Company A, 2nd LAR, RCT-5, 1st Marine Division. When the Marines occupy the new outpost, Iraqi government workers will move in and begin operating the water pumps.
The plant supplied much of the surrounding area between Camp Korean Village and al-Asad with water, but had been closed for the past five years. A lack of water has driven many locals to relocate, and the land once used for farming has become desolate.
“Once the pump station opens, Iraqis can run it unaided, and we’re giving them space to do that,” said 1st Lt. Samuel D. Joiner, executive officer, Company A.
Joiner, 24, from Knoxville, Tenn., and Armstrong, 24, from Johnson City, Tenn., agreed that pumping water back into the surrounding area, into irrigation canals and homes alike, should result in a return of population and agricultural stability to the area.
“It’s the ideal partnership; we’ll have the civic side and the peacekeeping side all together,” Armstrong said.
The engineers are happy both to provide Marines with a new living space and to have a hand in the reopening of the water plant that once brought Earth’s most precious resource to many of Iraq’s more rural citizens.
“I think water could convey that message of peace and prosperity,” said Sgt. Steven J. Geiger, 25, Matamoras, Pa., squad leader, Engineer Company.
Geiger said that engineers take each job seriously, and their approach is all business. But, he said, it’s nice to know that their work is not only improving conditions for Marines spending seven months at a COP, but also for Iraqis spending their entire lives in the desert.
“Water is essential, it is the building block of life,” Geiger said.
The potential for the project was not immediately known by the company, until they conducted their site survey. The project, which is slated to begin sometime in the next month, can help Iraqis repopulate the area and turn brown desert into green farms.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Capt. Lauren S. Edwards, 32, from Smiths Grove, Ken., company commander, Engineer Company. “Whether (we’re helping) Marines or the Iraqi people, there’s a hope and promise, and a lot of forward moving instead of just treading water.”
Treading water would be nice, but first Marines plan to make sure the locals in Western Iraq have enough to drink.