CAMP MERCURY, Iraq -- Marines with 3rd Civil Affairs Group joined with Marines here carrying a few items not normally seen in a Marines’ gear bag. Take for example, cute, cuddly, soft stuffed animals.
The Marines aren’t lacking discipline, though. They’re taking their mission to the kids in Fallujah, the first project since they arrived here recently.
The 3rd Civil Affairs Group, Detachment 2, Team 3, hit the ground running when they attached to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment by delivering school supplies and toys to the Al Ahid School in the town of Zawia March 27.
“It’s nice to get out and see the school and the kids excited to see us,” said Lt. Col. Dan Tripp, a 39-year-old 3rd CAG governance officer from Milwaukee. “It’s very rewarding work, not like the stuff you see on the news.”
The team assumed responsibility for several projects started by the last CAG team, as well as planning new contracts for various water, road, medical and school projects in the area. The mission today, however, was delivering support from American benefactors to children in one of Fallujah’s poorest neighborhoods.
“I feel it was a huge success,” said Cpl. Erik Deleon, a civil affairs noncommissioned officer. “It’s good helping out the kids who are less fortunate.”
Scott Clark, a teacher at Gibraltar High School in Fish Creek, Wis. coordinated the drive to collect school supplies from the community to send to children in Iraq.
“It started out as a class project, then the whole community got involved,” said Maj. Julie Schaeffer, the departing director of the Fallujah Civil Military Operations Center and resident of Sister Bay, Wis. “It’s awesome, the support we get from back home to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.”
Altogether, Fish Creek residents filled 55 boxes with new clothes, beanbag stuffed animals, jump ropes, candy, notebooks, pencils, markers, safety scissors, paper, folders, tape, glue and staplers mailed them to Iraq. A short while later the Iraqi children were lined up to receive their gifts. Each one of them wore a smile in anticipation.
The now-departed 6th Civil Affairs Group, Detachment 4, Team 3 visited the Al Ahid school several times during their months with Darkhorse, contracting nearly $30,000 to refurbish the school’s wiring, exterior and windows. They later contracted a 10,000-gallon water tank to give the students fresh drinking water.
Capt. J.R. Rinaldi, the battalion’s civil affairs team leader said the unit “has a long and glorious history as one of the premiere battalions in the Marine Corps. I feel proud to be a part of the … mission, to contribute to the fight any way I can.”
Deleon volunteered for his second tour in Iraq to join the civil affairs mission, like many of the Marines of 3rd CAG.
“I felt in my first deployment I didn’t contribute enough,” said the 25-year-old from Blue Springs, Mo. “When I found out what 3rd CAG was about, how it’s a different kind of mission, I thought it was great. I’m definitely glad to be here.”
“It’s rewarding to us as Marines to see we can make a difference in the lives of children,” added Rinaldi, from Vancouver, Wash.