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Civil affairs team in Mahmudiyah looks back on project successes

6 Aug 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

Sgt. Daniel P. Carreon formed a bit of a spending habit in Iraq.  His expenditures ran in the neighborhood of millions and Marines whom he works for couldn't be prouder.

Carreon spent the past six or so months cruising the streets of Mahmudiyah speaking with everyone from sheikhs to school teachers.  He's been part of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment's civil affairs detachment, dedicated to rebuilding Iraq. 

His team's deployment is getting ready to wrap up and they're not leaving without having made lasting impacts.

"We've put over 5 million dollars into more than a hundred projects since we arrived in February," Carreon said.  "We go everywhere the battalion does.  When we're not working on a project we're doing raids and other operations."

The team's ability to be a combat power is due to what Carreon calls a very smart move for the battalion to make.

"We've received a lot of support from (the battalion) in the way of vehicles, heavy machine guns to mount on them and Marines attached to us for security," said Sgt. Jeremy E. Murray, a member of civil affairs team.  "We're not dependant on someone else's ride to get our job done.  We can go anywhere, anytime, whether we're working on a contract or helping the battalion with their operations."

Most of the CAG's day is spent out in the town traveling to where many Marines never go.

"When we go out, we're not just passing through on a patrol," Carreon said.  We get out and talk to people to find out what their needs are."

Needs range from the basic to the frivolous, so Marines concentrate on what will produce immediate and concrete results for the people of their community.

"One of our best projects was repairing a water treatment facility in Zadan," Carreon said.  "It was supposed to provide water to thousands of families, but didn't.  We fixed it and then the smaller satellite water facilities in the area.  That was a big impact for the community."

One of the most fulfilling types of projects the civil affairs team encounters is any project that involving children.

"We do everything from handing out Frisbees to rebuilding schools and I enjoy those more than anything," Carreon said.  "You can see if we get the kids to like us then we can show them there is hope."

Carreon admits it is a slow, long process to getting Iraq built to an acceptable standard.  By doing their part of help Iraq, civil affairs teams are helping the community move toward the goal of a new Iraq.

"You always see news about roadside bombs and firefights back home, but you don't see us giving backpacks and school supplies to these kids," Carreon said.  "These are things they've never had in their lives.  That is immediate impact on the community and the future of Iraq."

The addition of the civil affairs team has been nothing short of a force multiplier, according to Lt. Col. Giles Kyser, the battalion commander.  The team allowed Marines to engage Iraqis on projects that were aimed at the common good between Marines and Iraqis, instead of constant gun battles.

"I can tell you I have never seen a team more effective than this one because they have the warrior mindset first," Kyser said. "The aggressive way they attack their operations ensures they receive the support they have from the battalion."

Kyser added that he believed his battalion was better for having the civil affairs team with them.  They fit the bill when it came to linking Marines and Iraqis.

"Before I came on this deployment I was working as an office clerk for a law firm," said Sgt. Manuel A. Lopez, another civil affairs Marine. "I like being in the people-service business.  That's why this works for me."

Lopez liked working for the people and plans on taking his skills here and transferring them to a job with law enforcement.

"I like doing something meaningful," he added.  "We do more than just go out into the city, we're waving and developing that military-civilian relationship with Iraqis."

For some Marines with the civil affairs team here, they'll never be able to top the experiences of this deployment.

"It's still an experience, even though it's my second time here," Lopez said.  "A month after I get back I'll miss Iraq.  Nothing back home compares to this."

The team is scheduled to return to Camp Pendleton, Calif., later in the month.