SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq --
Getting to know the family living next door can sometimes be a challenge, but Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, patrolled through the streets of Saqlawiyah Feb. 12, introducing themselves as the new ‘family’ next door.
The battalion, also known as “Mayhem from the Midwest,” recently stepped on-deck in Iraq, and is introducing themselves to the people in the area who they will be helping during the next seven months.
“We do census’ to get a feel for who is living in the area and where they live,” said Sgt. Josh K. Bloomquist, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, Company E. “It also helps us put our face out there so that the (Iraqis) know who we are and that we want to help them. It becomes personal, like we’re their neighbors.”
Much like the Census Bureau does in America, the Marines went door-to-door, speaking to the head of the household and introducing themselves to the community. It is an exhausting, time-consuming project, but the Marines are determined to get to know the Iraqis who they will be sharing the streets with during their deployment.
“This helps us figure out who belongs here and who doesn’t,” said Bloomquist, a resident of Omaha, Neb. “If we hear a name, we don’t need to worry about who they are or where they live. It takes time and a lot of work, but it will ultimately help us.”
The information gathered on these census patrols is not only designed to help the Marines, but it will eventually be used and tracked by the Iraqi Government.
“We’re here to help this country get back on its feet,” said HM2 Adam F. Kinney, a 41-year-old Hospital Corpsman from Elizabethtown, Ky. “Eventually we can turn the paperwork over to the Iraqis; give everything back to them.”
During the census patrols, the Marines are accompanied by an Iraqi interpreter who helps interview the families that do not speak English.
“We go so that we can translate everything the Marines say,” said Moe, an interpreter with Company E. “(The Iraqis) feel comfortable with us being there. It helps us get all the information we need.”
With the help of Moe, Bloomquist asked one man if there was anything the Marines could do to help his family. The man mentioned that his brother was very sick and wanted to know if anything could be done to help him. Bloomquist jumped on the opportunity to help the man and immediately called the platoon Corpsman over the radio.
“His brother was very sick and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do right then and there, but we relayed it to our command and they have already set up an appointment to help him,” said Kinney, who is an attorney when not either deployed or drilling with the Reserve Battalion. “With us setting up (the appointment) so fast, it shows how much we care about the Iraqis and how much we want to help. That is why we’re here; to help them, not hurt them.”
The Marines finished their patrol with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that they had shown their face to the community and helped a family in need.
“We did a good job today introducing ourselves to the people,” Bloomquist said. “They really seem like they are warming up to us and want to help us as much as we want to help them.”