AKASHAT, Iraq -- When gloves and trash bags are priority gear for mission accomplishment, there is little doubt that things have changed in Akashat, Iraq.
The citizens of Akashat were informed via the mosque loudspeaker that there would be a town wide cleanup March 20 where all residents were urged to help pickup trash.
“The trash will be cleaned away to increase the health and welfare of the citizens,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah C. Johnson, 28, from Elko Nev., who is the company gunnery sergeant for Company H, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5.
Several platoons of Marines patrolled through town recruiting local children and handing out plastic trash bags.
“We thought we were going to have to do most of the work ourselves, but then the local children pitched in,” said Cpl. Carl D. Youker, 28, from Peru, Ind., an anti-tank assault man with Blue Platoon, Company H.
The Akashat community’s willingness to work with Coalition forces has opened the door for several humanitarian projects such as the cleanup.
“There are two reasons we are cleaning up the trash,” said Johnson. “First is to make it safer for the children to play and second is to give the town a more professional look.”
Throughout the day, the Marines focused on cleaning the town as much as possible. A 7-ton truck dragged away concertina wire that barred the entrance to the once banned local theatre. Marines dragged broken ceiling panels out of the theatre as children swept and picked up other garbage. The trash bags were then piled on the side of the road as trucks and tractors filled their beds to haul away the garbage to a burn pit.
Local residents were encouraged to cleanup the area around their homes and to help pick up trash in the streets as well.
“The people stated throwing bags into the 7-ton and cleaning more than the area around their yard,” said Youker.
The Marines helped supervise and provided security down the roads, but there was little fear of incident.
“It was (very) rewarding because it was one of the better things we did to help the kids out,” said Youker.