Featured News

Marines pass out goodies to local Iraqis

8 May 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment conducted a bit of "street diplomacy" here recently.

The Marines fanned out to the villages surrounding the camp passing out coloring books and tackling infrastructure projects to improve living conditions for the Iraqis.

"We're giving out coloring books, school supplies and Frisbees to the local kids," said Warrant Officer Eddie D. Dubois, from Gladwin, Mi., who serves as the battalion's information operations officer.  "We're getting the message across to rural areas that the Coalition Forces are here to help rebuild a free Iraq."

Most goods passed out were donated by Spirit of America, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles.

The most recent smiles came when yo-yos were passed out to local children.

"We had to show them how to use the things," Dubois explained.  "They all laughed at seeing us trying to get it right and when we left they were trying to figure the things out themselves."

Even though the battalion was only in the camp for a few days, the message of the Coalition's intent of helping the Iraqi people got out.  Marines passed out leaflets offering phone numbers for Iraqis to seek help for getting clean water.

"An ongoing project is helping the local water treatment plant," Dubois said.

Clean water is scarce in many rural areas of Iraq.  Water treatment became a project where Marines quickly became involved.

"We've found a lack of good drinking water to be the number one complaint," said Maj. Mark P. DeVito, a Civil Affairs Group leader from San Diego.  "We're putting $50,000 into the water plant.  Because the people want to see immediate effects, we're giving 50,000-gallon water bladders to different towns so they have a way to get water immediately."

DeVito explained that Iraqis in the area were pro-Coalition at one time, but without seeing their surroundings improve, their minds changed.  The Marines plan to leverage their assistance to gain back trust through upgrading conditions.

In addition to the water plant, CAG is also working to organize a street cleanup.  Hiring people to go through the town and pick up trash not only cleans up the area but also creates jobs.

"Because we're out there in the towns every day, we see what needs to get done," DeVito said.  "We become familiar to the people and they give us information about insurgents or weapons caches."