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‘America’s Battalion’ looks to help locals

22 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, are making the effort to help the Iraqi community.

Weapons Company Marines conducted a census in their area of operations to find out how Marines could help the people in the area.

“We go out and talk to the people and see how their living conditions are,” said Cpl. Giancarlo J. Albelice, a 22-year-old vehicle commander from Philadelphia. “We also see if there is anything we can help them with.”

At each destination Marines set up security. They surrounded homes with humvees, and Marines on the ground provided security. Marines spoke with the owners of the homes to find out if there was any information they could use to help local citizens.

When people needed food or water, Marines were quick to hand over a box of Meals-Ready-to-Eat or a case of water, Albelice said. Although they were short-term solutions, it let the people know Marines are there to help them.

“It’s important for us to do things like this,” said Lance Cpl. Steven Torturro, a 20-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y. “It gets them to help us, and these people need all the help they can get.”

Marines also stopped at three mosques to speak with imams. It was important to talk to the imams because they have strong influence in the community, according to Cpl. Jesse E. Leach, a section leader assigned to Weapons Company. Marines spoke with the imams in an effort to gain their support.

“We get the peoples’ hearts and minds with the help of the imams,” said Leach, a 28-year-old from Charlotte, N.C. “If we get in good with the imams, we get in good with the people.”

Marines gave kids in the neighborhood treats while they provided security. They handed out candy, cookies, Pop-Tarts and anything else the kids might enjoy. Marines in the turret tossed treats to the kids who were too shy to get near Marines handing treats out.

Marines have seen improvements with the locals since they arrived more than two months ago. They said they believed missions that help the community are helping Marines earn the trust of the people.

“When we first got here people wouldn’t really come up to us,” Torturro said. “Now they aren’t shy to talk to us or let their kids come and get candy from us.”

The operation went smoothly and without incident, Turturro said.

“It was successful mission,” Leach said. “We found three mosques and got to speak with two imams. We’ll be able to accomplish more with their help.”