RAWAH, Iraq --
Evidence of past firefights is strewn along the bullet-riddled walls of Rawah. Marines patrolling through the streets are not a strange sight to the inhabitants. Children would greet them with “Salam,” and people in cars would pull over and politely wave.
However, instead of always patrolling for insurgents, Marines now patrol to observe reconstruction projects.
Staff Sgt. Jason E. Sneed, 31, from Crawford, Texas, who is a civil affairs team leader for Marine Civil Affairs Team 5, often leads his Marines out the gates of the Iraqi Police station and through the streets of Rawah to check on projects the Marine Corps is funding.
The first project is rebuilding a recreational center.
“This recreation center will give the children a place where they can play soccer, volleyball, and they will have internet access,” said Sneed.
Insurgents have been known to hire children to do their dirty work to avoid placing themselves in danger. Marines in Rawah searched for a way to improve the lives for the children here.
“We have had problems with young children being hired to plant improvised explosive devices and to throw grenades,” said Sneed.
The plan is that the recreation center will keep children off the streets and further from the insurgent influence.
CAT 5 is also working on fixing a road that floods when the river runs high. When the river recedes back it leaves a pool of stagnant water, which is a health hazard for the residents who live nearby.
“You can see where they patched it, but it has never been permanently fixed,” said Sneed.
The repairs that CAT 5 is planning will be a more lasting solution for the people of Rawah.
Civil Affairs operations have not been limited to Rawah.
“We refurbished a courthouse in Anah,” said Sgt. Jeremy A. Miller, 23, from Thompson Station, Tenn., who is a civil affairs team chief for CAT 5. “It was a huge step for the rule of law.”
Since the courthouse opened, all manner of public records are being kept there. Eventually the courthouse will be a venue for criminal case trials.
During a meeting with Hamed Khalil Ibrahim, the mayor of Rawah, Sneed talked over politics and discussed the humanitarian projects that were going on in the city.
“We are aiding and guiding more. I don’t tell the mayor how to do his job; I just help him out when he asks for stuff,” said Sneed.
The situation in Rawah and Anah has improved dramatically as the government primes for the transition of power. CAT 5 is preparing the local government to be self sufficient.
“The local government is given most of the credit, so the people will have more faith in them,” said Cpl. William D. Aynes, 21, from Johnstown, Colo., a civil affairs team member with CAT 5. “The more the people trust the government, the more the government can help us and the safer it is for everybody.”