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Marines, Iraqi work to bring cultures, efforts closer together

2 Mar 2006 | Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn

It’s not exactly a culture clash.  Marines and Iraqis living under the same roof here is more like a culture jumble. 

Marine and sailors from Company G, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Iraqi soldiers from 3rd Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade have been living with each other for the last six months. The experience has been beneficial for both units. They are learning together to better understand each other and secure the future of Iraq.

“It’s been interesting,” said Capt. Gregory J. Wardman, Company G’s commander. “There’s two very different ways of doing business, two different cultures.”

The biggest challenge the Marines face is trying to overcome the language barrier. Talking to one another is usually a chaotic mix of short phrases and wild hand gestures.  Most of the Iraqis understand English better than they speak it, but broken English is still the preferred method of communication.

It’s not just Iraqis learning to speak to their American counterparts.  Marines are getting in on the act too.

“The Marines have picked up a lot of conversational Arabic just from standing post with the Iraqis,” Wardman said. 

Language aside, Marines are also adjusting to cultural differences.  But it’s the performance of the Iraqi troops during operations that’s drawing praise from Marines.

“When we go on a patrol and they search a house they’re awesome,” said Lance Cpl. Travis D. Ellis, a 22-year-old from Pottstown, Pa. “They can do things we can’t.”

Iraqi troops already understand the cultural norms and Iraqi citizens are often more understanding when Iraqi soldiers conduct searches.

Wardman explained that he feels Iraqi troops are up to task of taking on their security operations.  They just need greater troop strength.

“They can do this job, they just need more troops,” he said.  “Numbers, not capabilities, limits them. There are things that I used to have to send Marines to do that I can send Iraqi soldiers to do now. The people in town can understand it better because they are dealing with Iraqis and not Marines.”

The Marines acknowledge that the Iraqi Army is getting better every day and will be able to take over the responsibility for their country one day.  It’s encouraging for the Marines to see their efforts of training and mentoring Iraqi troops come to fruition.

“They’re getting there, some are better than others, but they’re getting there,” said Lance Cpl. Armas S. Fernandez, a 22-year-old from Naples, Fla.  “One day they will be able to do this on their own.  They just need some discipline and to keep learning.”

The Iraqis wholeheartedness goes into everything they do.  It’s even evident on the door to their squad leaders’ room.  It reads, “Be just like the Marines.”