GHARMAH, Iraq -- Marines with A Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment – along with soldiers from the Iraqi Army – brought a breath of fresh air to a local mosque.
Operation Cool Carpet delivered two new air conditioning units and a box of prayer rugs to the Iraqi people near Gharmah.
“This is basically a mission of good will,” said Sgt. Juan J. Mendez, a 24-year-old squad leader from Gardena, Calif. “This hopefully will help the Iraqi soldiers become more trusted in the community.”
Marines from A Company have operated in the area since the battalion’s arrival in January. They have built strong relationships with the Iraqi people while fighting the insurgency in the area.
“We have worked closely with the people in this area,” said 2nd Lt. Patrick M. Lynch, a 28-year-old platoon commander from Alsip, Ill. “Whenever they voice a need in the community, if we can, we try to help them.”
One of the missions of the battalion is to be able to turn over more battle space to the Iraqi Army. The Marines took this opportunity to include the Iraqi soldiers. Soon, Iraqi soldiers will be working these regions on their own. Trust between Iraqi soldiers and locals is just as important as it is for Marines and locals.
“We want the people to know the Iraqi Army is here to help them as well,” Mendez said. “This is the first time we have worked with them. They look pretty sharp from what I can see.”
A crowd of people formed outside the mosque as the Marines and soldiers pulled up in their humvees. The delivery didn’t take long, but the reception was warm and welcomed.
“I enjoy coming out and helping my people,” said Iraqi Army Cpl. Hussein Abass Hussein, a 24-year-old soldier from Najaf. “I just wish we could do more of these types of events.”
Marines, Iraqi soldiers and civilians alike grabbed the units and the box of rugs from the back of a humvee. The soldiers and the local Iraqi men carried the items into the mosque once they were unloaded from the truck.
“It is great to see that we can help out the people,” Hussein said. “It is good for us to do this. One day we will be fully responsible for the area.”
Hand shakes and prayers of thanks were shared between the Iraqis and the Marines. As quickly as they came, the forces loaded up and were on their way.
“Today’s mission was a success,” Lynch said. “Everything went as planned and no one was injured. I couldn’t ask for more.”
No set dates are in place for the Iraqi Army to take over the company’s area of operation. Everyday though, the Iraqi Army is taking on more responsibilities in the area.
“We are getting closer to going home everyday that passes,” said Mendez. “Things like this are good for the Iraqi soldiers. One day this is all going to be theirs and they will have complete control.”