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3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment brings clean water to Iraqis

18 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Soon, the taps will be back on here, with a little help from Marines.

The “Betio Bastards” of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, along with Marines from 3rd Civil Affairs Group and Army soldiers here, worked together to finalize plans to fix a water treatment facility in Sadiquiyah Aug. 18.

“This area’s water purification infrastructure is in pretty bad shape,” said Capt. J.R. Rinaldi, a CAG officer who is responsible for civil-military operations while attached to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

The treatment plant’s dilapidated state is mostly because of wear and tear of a combat environment.  Maintenance is lacking and broken parts weren’t replaced, both secondary effects of Iraqi technicians not being able to keep up with it due to insurgent threats.

That’s had a noticeable affect on the local community.  Rinaldi, a 37-year-old from Vancouver, Wash., got reports that many people were getting sick because they drink directly from the Euphrates River.  The river is one of the few sources of water in this arid environment and dumping ground for waste and pollution. 

“The biggest problem in Iraq is basic services – the water and electricity,” he added.

Rinaldi met with the Iraqi directorate general for the region and discussed the cost to refurbish and refit the water distribution system before coming out to see the site for himself.

“Then I spoke with the technician to get an understanding so I can better manage the project,” Rinaldi said.

He decided to fix the purification facility. The trip to the treatment plant brought CAG Marines and the plant owner together to set up the arrangements. The Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment also brought an Arabic interpreter to help.

Marines worked as armed security while the CAG and the interpreter met with the water treatment facility owner.  It wasn’t the normal counterinsurgency operation to which Marines here are accustomed.  Still, it’s an effort they know will pay off for the Iraqis they’re protecting.

“Drinkable water is a necessity to make sure this country survives way after we’re gone,” said Lance Lance Cpl. Andrew E. Kaylor, a 24-year-old tow gunner from Weirton, W.V., assigned to Headquarters and Service Company.

Soldiers attached to the battalion passed out gifts to the children while CAG and “Betio Bastards” were inside the water treatment facility.

“Passing out flags and footballs to the kids definitely, in my opinion, shows that we’re not trying to just take over the country,” Kaylor said. “Hopefully the kids will see that with the gifts we bring them.”

Apparently, they did.

“The people are a lot more open to talk to us with problems,” said Cpl. Robert B. Phillips, a 28-year-old disburser from Blue Springs, Mo., assigned to 3rd CAG.

Phillips explained that goof-faith gestures such as the flags and soccer balls help local Iraqis feel like they’re being treated with dignity and respect.  That makes them more willing to speak to Marines, knowing they’re here to help.

“We provide more of a listening ear to their complaints,” Phillips said. “We respond with the resources that we have, which is more than adequate.”

The battalion, with help from CAG Marines, is bringing their resources to bear for the Iraqis here.  Rinaldi and the water treatment facility owner set up a date to start the refurbishing of the plant.  Clean water will come to the small city.

The battalion’s Marines were glad to assist a unit like CAG on one of their many missions.  Kaylor said assistance from CAG Marines helps them demonstrate their concern for Iraqi communities in both combating the insurgency and answering local concerns.

“Civilians will start to see that were helping them and they want us here,” he said.

Rinaldi said his Marines are grateful the battalion puts an emphasis on civil-assistance missions as a key component on counterinsurgency operations.

“Having mobility throughout the area of operations greatly enhances our mission and allows us to achieve the commander’s intent in restructuring his AO,” Rinaldi said.

“It was a good thing,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Garza, a 33-year-old hospital corpsman from McAllen, Texas, assigned to 3rd CAG. “I felt more secure because I had more people to have my back.

“We appreciate them for the help they give us, and we’re glad to help them,” he added.