AR RAMADI, Iraq -- A week after some of the bloodiest fighting since major combat operations were declared over last year, Marines from 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division returned to the streets here April 14 to extend a helping hand to the city's residents.
Fifteen Marines and scores of enemy combatants were killed during fierce gun battles in the heart of Ar Ramadi throughout the week of April 6. Once the fighting subsided, it was time for the battalion to assist those caught in the middle.
"Not all the people in the city hate us; not all of them are terrorists," said Sgt. Hector A. Osorio, assistant information operations chief. "A lot of them are innocent, and many of them suffered during the fighting."
The battalion abides by the 1st Marine Division motto: No better friend, no worse enemy. Osorio said it was time for the locals to see that Marines can be no better friend, so Operation County Fair III was put into effect.
"Our goal was to provide free medical care to the Iraqis and to give out some toys to the children," Osorio, of Houston, Texas, explained. "We also brought some soccer balls for a pick-up game."
The entire battalion participated in the daylong operation, but not all of the Marines had the opportunity to play soccer with the people here. Some Marines patrolled the streets of the city and provided security, and others searched homes for unlawful weapons and explosives.
"The Marines didn't go busting in doors and forcing themselves into the houses," Osorio added. "They knocked and asked to come in. Most of the people didn't mind and cooperated."
During the searches, Marines seized several illegal weapons and detained four suspected anti-Coalition fighters.
Meanwhile, corpsmen back at the soccer stadium were examining sick and injured men, women and children.
"Our job here is to see how the Iraqi people are doing medically," explained Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David P. Carbungra, from Temcula, Calif. "We want them to see that we really do care about them, and we don't want to hurt them."
In all, the medical team examined nearly 30 patients.
"Most of the problems were minor, like eye injuries," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Danny F. Brown, of Nashville, Tenn. "Some were more serious. There was one guy that came in with several gunshot wounds."
According to patient's brother, the injured man was caught in the middle of a firefight between Marines and insurgents.
"Apparently, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Brown said.
The team treated the man to the best of its ability and sent him on his way to recover.
Carbungra said most of the people he saw were appreciative for the care.
"You can see it in their eyes," he added. "The father of an infant girl I treated for an ear infection looked at me like I had just cured the girl from the terrible pain she's had for more than a week. It just takes a little 'TLC' sometimes to show them we do really want to help."
Most of the people here have limited access to medical care, so a visit from the corpsmen was important, said 22-year-old Omar Turkey Farhan, Ar Ramadi citizen.
"Most everyone likes the Americans being here when they help us," Farhan explained. "We'll be glad when the country is ours again and there's no more fighting, but as long as the Americans want to help us back on our feet, I like them being in Iraq."