CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Supporting coalition efforts to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure, Marines awarded a contract June 4, 2004, that will bring clean drinking water to a village near here.
The $146,000 project, coordinated between the local Iraqi government and 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, sets in motion the installation of a water purification system in the small fishing community of about 1,000 people.
In the past, residents had to hand-carry and boil water from a nearby lake to drink, a process that still left bacteria in the water and caused numerous health problems for the villagers.
For the past few months, Marines from the reserve infantry battalion, who provide security for the 1st Force Service Support Group at nearby Camp Taqaddum, have helped supply water for the community, purifying and delivering 3,000 gallons of water every two weeks.
"They'll have their own water supply now, with multiple drop points, so anybody can get water any time," said Cpl. Jesse C. Kuschel, a driver with the battalion and a 23-year-old native of Springfield, Mo.
The project goes beyond just providing clean drinking water. It will also employ many local Iraqis.
Though it would have been quicker and cheaper for the Marines to install the equipment themselves, they wanted to let the Iraqis take the lead so they would come away with the experience needed to do such jobs on their own in the future.
"We could easily go down and do this project. This is to get Iraqis involved in their future," said Maj. Rollin F. Jackson, the project plans officer for the battalion.
The battalion contacted district manager Thaer Handala, the local Iraqi government representative for the Khaldyah district, to negotiate the contract for the project, so the villagers could learn how to work through their local representative government, said Jackson, a 37-year-old native of O'Fallon, Mo.
"I have been trying for a project like this for the past year. Nothing was accomplished until the Marines came. For this we thank God," said Handala, speaking through a translator.
A Coalition Provisional Authority program that allows commanders to identify and support civil affairs projects in their area funded the contract, said 1st Lt. Johnny F. Luevano, a 1st FSSG disbursing officer and a 31-year-old native of Artesia, N.M.
Marines fronted Handala $100,000, and will make two more installments of $23,000 as work nears completion.
The job is expected to be completed by the end of June.
The project is just one among many the Marines have launched aiming at improving the Iraqis' quality of life.