QARYAT AL JAFFAH, Iraq -- Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, conducted a civil affairs mission by visiting residents here Sept. 12, 2004.
The morning visit to the town of a few hundred was part of an ongoing effort to strengthen community relations between the Marines and the citizens of Iraq.
“This is our chance to help at the grassroots level,” said Maj. Luke W. Kratky, 3/24’s information officer and 33-yr-old native of Bridgeton, Mo.
Kratky, and his future replacement, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dwight Torres, 2/10's information officer, walked the streets with a translator in hopes of interacting with community leaders.
Around sunrise, the Marines left Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, where they are based, with the goal of talking to the town’s sheik. On a previous visit, the Marines gave the sheik a water bladder to provide the town with potable water. Marines later discovered he was selling the water for profit, not allowing the locals to use it as intended. When confronted, the sheik destroyed the bladder.
While the sheik eluded the Marines during this visit, they were still able to talk to locals about future projects they are planning and get opinions about what the town needs. Projects discussed included pumping clean water to the town and helping rebuild a rundown school.
The Marines hope to provide school supplies before school starts later this month, said Lt. Col. Michael H. Gellick, 45, a liaison officer assigned to the 4th Civil Affairs Group.
This visit was better than the last, said Gellick, a Cleveland native. Just two weeks ago, Marines had to knock on doors to get people to come out and talk, and gifts from the Marines were destroyed in the street.
This time around, Iraqi men and children approached the Marines to engage in conversations, demonstrating a willingness to work with their military neighbors. The gifts brought this time – soccer balls, foam footballs, softballs and baseballs – were graciously accepted and played with while the Marines were there.
Qaryat al Jaffah is one of three towns that 3/24, a St.Louis-based reserve unit, has focused on establishing good relations with since their deployment earlier this year. With their deployment coming to an end next month, they are preparing their newly arrived replacements of 2/10, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for the work ahead.
Producing results for the local community reaffirms that the Marines are here to help the Iraqi people rebuild their villages, said Torres, 35, of Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico.
Both units are currently assigned to the 1st Force Service Support Group and are responsible for providing security around Camp Taqaddum and other bases throughout Iraq.
The 1st FSSG provides the logistical support for the I Marine Expeditionary Force, which is currently in command of all Marine forces operating in Iraq.
(Editor's note: 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment's companies are geographically separated from the battalion headquarters. They are based in Springfield, Mo., Broken Arrow, Okla., Nashville and Johnson City, Tenn. and Terre Haute, Ind.)