AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Marines from Regimental Combat Team 7 took on one last chore for the fledgling Iraqi National Guard the day Iraq became a sovereign nation. They paid the bills.
Marines made a run to deliver the monthly payroll and deliver arms to the Iraqi soldiers June 28, orchestrating a successful two-day convoy. The mission gave RCT-7 the necessary equipment and finances to help better prepare the ING to assume security operations.
In a region where criminals and terrorist still wield attacks, it was no small task.
The regiment's Civil Affairs Group, along with elements of the Information Operations and Headquarters and Service Company for security, obtained more than a thousand sets of uniforms, 500 pairs of boots, more than 550 AK-47 rifles and nearly 575 million Iraqi dinars to pay the 1,700-man payroll for the month of June.
"We have to do this," said CWO 4 Gary W. Davis, CAG operations officer from Filer, Idaho. "They're just like us, except they're paid monthly. So it would be extremely hard on them if we weren't able to pay them for doing their job."
The regiment submits a payroll roster each month, which is then approved by higher headquarters. The money is then picked up at an Iraqi bank in downtown Ar Ramadi, the capital city for Al Anbar Province.
"The countries security is our main focus," said Lt. Col. Brian J. Tucker, CAG's commanding officer from Oceanside, Calif. "The battalions do the training. We help by providing the necessary equipment. The uniforms will make them look more professional and the brand new rifles are for obvious reasons."
Extra precautions were taken as reports of growing criminal activity increased each day.
"We just did what we always do," Tucker said. "Every precaution was taken to ensure a successful trip."
Staff Sgt. Eric Holt, information operations chief from Pasco, Wash. said the group went over the designed plans more than usual and noticed the Marines were more focused during preparation.
"Where ever CAG goes we go," Holt said. "We have their backs. We were expecting much more to happen. Our guys did great. CAG was in and out much faster than we expected."
The team was in and out of the government building and city bank in minimal time, with only one report of small-arms fire in the vicinity.
"Everything went really smooth," Holt said. "That is the way we wanted it."
The successful trip was attributed in large part to Marines such as Sgt. Matthew J. Lazarski, CAG's noncommissioned officer-in-charge from Cedar Grove, N.J., who participated in a similar bank and equipment run in early April.
"This time around it was much more difficult," Lazarski explained. "Everyone relied on me to get them there and back. We didn't have any maps so I had to do it all in my head."
The convoy for payroll money may have been the last according to Davis.
"We will continue to help the Iraqi people," Davis said. "But this is supposed to be our last bank run. The new government has been informed as to the process and is ready to take over the payment of their forces."
Despite putting themselves in harm's way, all the Marines who participated in the pick up and transfer of equipment and money did it knowing it served a higher purpose.
"Yes, this was a big risk," Lazarski said, "but it was worth it. We had to do it. We need to provide these guys with as much as possible and we have been doing so.
"It's up to them now," he added. "We've given them the training and equipment. Now it's time to see if they really want to take control of their country. We've done about all we could next to doing it all ourselves. They should succeed."