ZADAN, Iraq -- The civil affairs team with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment recently completed the initial stages of a project that will improve a mosque, school and medical clinic in the city.
The event was celebrated by a groundbreaking ceremony on the property May 19.
"Today was a big day for us," said Sgt. Daniel P. Carreon, an assistant team leader for the civil affairs team from Garden Grove, Calif. "It was one of the first times we've been invited to a mosque in the city and been welcomed by everyone. It's just the first step toward showing the locals we're here to help and improve their quality of life."
The project will consist of a room built onto the mosque where the local sheikhs, or tribal leaders, can meet to discuss community affairs, explained the 27-year-old Carreon. In addition, the adjacent primary school will receive renovations along with the nearby medical clinic.
"My strongest memory of the ceremony was when they cut the ribbon and broke the ground with a shovel," said Lance Cpl. Brian M. Gill a 25-year-old from Philadelphia. "Everybody shouted and an old man raised his cane up in the air. You could tell they were genuinely happy to have us there."
After the event, a lamb was sacrificed at the mosque in accordance with Muslim tradition.
Construction is currently underway on the improvements and everything is expected to be complete by Aug. 15, Carreon said.
The improvements are a few of many that are underway in the community. The local water treatment plant, secondary and primary schools are also receiving improvements, spearheaded by the civil affairs team.
"This was the first time we've seen the local sheikhs working with the Coalition Forces and it's the first time they've been involved with us," said Maj. Mark P. DeVito, the civil affairs team leader from San Diego. "It's a positive step for the coalition forces and the sheikhs of Zadan."
Outside the ceremony, many of the Marines providing security noticed a major difference in the attitude of the people.
"People were a little more comfortable around us and there was a big turnout," said Cpl. Michael S. Edwards, a 23-year-old from Cincinnati. "This proves to them we are really here to help them out, make their lives better however we can."