HADITHA CITY, Iraq --
Local Iraqi tribal leaders united Saturday in Albu Hyatt, Iraq, and spoke of the future.
The gathering of all the leaders in Albu Hyatt was a significant step forward for future relationships with Coalition forces and transitioning the country back to Iraqi control.
“This is the first time that all the tribal leaders gathered, and the biggest issue discussed is the security of the area,” said Lt. Col. David G. Bellon, 42, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5. “There has been a very intense relationship between (the Hyani tribe and Marines) in the past seven months.”
Bellon discussed how his relationship with Sheik (elder) Aziz, the leader of the Hayani Tribe, began.
“Sheik Abd-Al-Aziz Marzuk Husayn was actually on his way to Camp Bucca, (an Iraqi prison run by Coalition forces), and the first thing I did was drive him back here,” said Bellon.
There is still insurgent activity in Albu Hyatt, but Aziz is an influential leader here, so we brought him back, said Bellon.
Since Sheik Azizs’ return, Coalition forces have worked heavily with the Iraqis in Albu Hyatt and established a new Iraqi Police Station last November.
“There are still active insurgent cells here,” said Capt. Victor M. Ruble, 31, the commanding officer of Company C, 3rd Amphibious Assault Vehicle Company, “but the IP here have been miraculous in the security of the area.”
The battalion prior to 3rd Bn, 23rd Marines, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, began the slow process of establishing relations with the members of the Hayani Tribe through trial and error.
“Our relationship with the people here is different than other units have had here,” said Ruble. “The Marines before would be told to go away, but we are invited in, and they think of us as part of the community now.”
Although the security has progressed, there are still active insurgent cells in the area.
“Last year, what we were doing here was being done under by (the insurgents),” said Ruble, who is from San Clemente, Calif. “Now, there is a real push to break them from that mind set and make them feel like they are safe.”
The people have been accustomed to difficult times, especially under Saddaam’s regime, but the security in the area is progressing and the Iraqi Forces are taking action.
“This place is much safer now, especially with the new police station,” said “Muhammad, an IP through an interpreter. “We are doing our best to keep this place safe.”