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American politicians visit Haditha City, observe progress

25 Mar 2008 | Cpl. Shawn Coolman

Members of the United States Congress came knocking Sunday to observe the progress that has been made in the Haditha Triad.

 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 showcased the improvements here to the delegation.

 The delegation consisted of members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, including Jim Costa of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

 “The American politicians are coming and it’s good for them to see the progress here so they can tell the American people,” said Lt. Col. Dave G. Bellon, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 prior to the politicians arriving.

 Once the delegation flew to Haditha City, they were immediately whisked off to a brief by Bellon, which illustrated the immense progress that’s been made in the Haditha Triad.

 “Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams now have sufficient funding and will have long term affects in the Triad,” explained Bellon to the delegation, which included Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly, the commanding general of Multi National Forces - West.

 EPRT is improving the local government to better help serve the interests of the local citizens.

 “What we are doing is building the capacity of the government and the citizens to be able to govern themselves,” said Mark. B. Humphries, an ePRT governance specialist for the Haditha district.

 Reconstruction projects underway here include training for the city council members, providing computer equipment for city planners, water purification systems and hospital projects.

 The delegation then briefly boarded military vehicles and convoyed to the heart of Haditha City’s market place.

 The congressman walked down the buzzing city streets and saw locals carrying on business as usual: Iraqis selling fruit at produce stands, people carrying on friendly conversations with one another and children walking home from school.

 What they didn’t see were the local businesses closed and people living in fear as may have been apparent in years past.

 “The people are getting their normal lives back together as they have formed a city council, which they meet every week, and new soccer leagues have formed,” said Master Sgt. Cortez L. Pree, 37, operation chief, 3rd Bn, 23rd Marine Regiment, who is from Texarkana, Ark.

 “Since the last time I was deployed to Iraq, I’ve seen more interaction with the people; I feel that the Iraqi people have more (trust) in us now,” added Pree.

 The congressmen also spoke with the locals on what they thought of the city’s progress and even sampled fruit from a local market stand.

 “It’s a wonderful city with very good people,” said Costa to a local Iraqi produce seller. “This city will be great again.”

 During the course of the day, the delegation repeated words of praise to the service members on a job well done.

 “Thank you for all your hard work,” said Costa. “We’re very proud of our Americas finest (Marines).”