Featured News

Gharmah police, Marines offer community helping hand

5 Sep 2006 | Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

Iraqi Police here are giving local citizens here more than a safe community.  They’re clothing the neediest of the small city’s children.

Gharmah’s Iraqi Police, along with Marine Police Transition Team members, pitched in to pass out clothes, school items and sports equipment to children in the city.  It was an effort started by Marines working with police here and carried out by police and the city’s mayor.

“I feel very happy to give to the children,” said Iraqi Lt. Col. Dalaf Rasheed, the police chief here.  “These are my children.  I like these children.”

Dalaf explained the clothing drive will continue to bond the Iraqi police to the citizens they protect.  It’s a growing relationship that six months ago didn’t exist.  Now, through actions such as this, Iraqi citizens in Gharmah see the police as their protectors and providers.

“The people here love the police,” Dalaf explained.  “More police are bringing safety to this area.  This gives trust between the police and the people.”

Dalaf said there is an immediate need for the donated clothes, school supplies and sports equipment.  He worked with the city’s mayor to identify families that were among the neediest and expected the clothing to go to nearly 300 children.

“Sure there’s a need,” Dalaf explained.  “The children who will get these clothes will be very happy.  We want to do more of this in the future.”

The children’s clothing was donated by Marines’ families in the United States, according to Staff. Sgt. Mark A Tyson, the PTT chief for Gharmah.  He explained the needs of the community became obvious when he patrolled the city. 

“We saw the same kids wearing the same clothes each time we went out there,” said Tyson, a 37-year-old from Orting, Wash.  “These were the same kids we gave candy and would toss around a ball.  These are the kids we’re trying to reach.”

Tyson said the idea wasn’t an original one.  He saw an article written about a Marine who did this sort of thing in Fallujah in the past.  He talked with his Marines and they called home to their wives and families.

He also sat down with Gharmah’s mayor and Dalaf to gain their support.  They wanted the donations to come from the Iraqi Police. 

“They asked why we would want to do something like this,” Tyson explained.  “I told them it was just as important for us as it was for them to take care of the local people.  I told them as Christians, charitable giving was important just as it is for Muslims.  They were grateful and shocked that we’d spend our family’s money to help out this community.”

The entire project took on a momentum of its’ own.  Families of the deployed Marines started their own drives, cleaning out closets of outgrown children’s clothes, buying up school supplies and sports gear and even hitting close-out sales.  They mailed them to Iraq where Tyson and his Marines were busy consolidating and cataloging all the items.

“A lot of credit has to go to Cpl. Jason Howell and Cpl. Michael Dalhstom,” Tyson said.  “They were the ones inventorying everything and getting it ready to pass out.”

It was no small feat.  Dozens of boxes filled with children’s shoes and clothing outfits filled nearly half of Gharmah Police Station’s jail.  The police had nowhere else large enough to store all the items before they passed them out.

Staff Sgt. Jefferson S. Baker, a 29-year-old PTT Marine working with Tyson in Gharmah, said the donated items ranged from baby’s clothes to shoes, soccer and sports equipment, even soccer uniforms.

“We had clothes for infants all the way through 12 and 14-year-olds,” said Baker, from Stuarts Draft, Va.  “We even had hats and coats, all the winter clothes they’ll need when it gets cold again.”

Iraqi police filled their patrol pick-up trucks with all the donated items.

This sort of community outreach wasn’t conceivable here less than half a year ago, Tyson explained. Then, police didn’t patrol the city.  Local Iraqis didn’t trust the police. 

“There was no local activity here, then,” Baker added.  “There were no cars on the streets and people would run from house-to-house.  People didn’t go to the market.”

But that’s changed.  Gharmah is now a small, bustling Iraqi city.  The marketplaces are full.  Cars clog the city’s narrow streets and the police are walking the beat every day. 

“The police are now better-trained and equipped to fight,” Baker said. 

“They’re doing joint operations with the Iraqi Army,” Tyson added.  “More civilians are coming into the police station to offer information.  A lot of time and patience has been spent to get us here to be able to do something like this.”

The growing level of trust between the local Iraqi citizens and police is what Tyson and Dalaf both hope to foster with the clothing drive. 

“The police are providing security for the people here,” Tyson said.  “Now they’re providing for their other needs.  This is another way to reach out the community.”

“Every day, my police help the people here,” Dalaf said.  “Our patrols take people to the hospital.  The police help the people and the people help the police.  The people can see us giving to them and understand that we’re here to help.”