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FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 3, 2008) - Local tribal leaders, or sheiks, with the Albu Hawa administrative council outside Fallujah gather during the opening of their new medical clinic here, July 3. Albu Hawa is a small sub tribe in 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines' area of operations. Civil Affairs Team 3, supporting 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, helped coordinate the clinic project and is helping Albu Hawa establish a voice with the local Iraqi government. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Chris Lyttle) (RELEASED)

Photo by Cpl. Chris Lyttle

Clinics, schools and communication help rural Iraqis reconstruct

3 Jul 2008 | Cpl. Chris Lyttle

FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 3, 2008) – Albu Hawa, a small sub-tribe south of Fallujah resides in a farmland district that lines the Euphrates River. Only a year ago, it was a rural battlespace with daily violence that harbored al-Qaeda terrorists.

Known as one of the last strongholds for al-Qaeda, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines performed operations during last year’s deployment to rid Albu Hawa of terrorist activity. This year, the battalion has returned to the area and witnessed the progress of this farmland community from when it was plagued with everyday violence. Now with terrorism on the brink of defeat, Iraqi Police have developed a strong presence in Albu Hawa and the area is dramatically safer for the citizens.

Now that there is security in the area, Coalition forces are working with the local leaders of the administrative council to improve living conditions and attend to the needs of the local people.

Civil Affairs Team 3 (CAG 3), in direct support of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, supervised the construction of a new medical clinic, which opened July 3.

1st Lt. Michael Robison, team leader of CAG 3, said his team provided overwatch for the project completion and more importantly, helped build a relationship between Albu Hawa and the local Iraqi government.

“The people of Albu Hawa have noticed that things are improving,” Robison said. “We’re giving this community something to be excited about. This clinic gets them excited about their future and the government of Iraq.”

The medical clinic serves the people of Albu Hawa five days a week and it is staffed by nurses from the local community. With the help of CAG 3, the Albu Hawa administrative council has the support of the local Iraqi government and Iraq’s Ministry of Health. CAG 3 brought the first project proposal to the ministry, who helped further develop the scope of work as well as supervise and inspect the project.

CAG 3 met the challenge of having the local Iraqi government recognize the needs of Albu Hawa, and the clinic’s completion is a big step in the reconstruction phase.

“(Albu Hawa administrative council) is currently working with the Ministry of Health to increase the staff,” after the clinic opened with three nurses, Robison said. “The ministry currently supports the clinic with salaries for the staff and medical supplies. The clinic has what it needs to provide people with basic medical care.”

The Albu Hawa administrative council celebrated the clinic opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and has been open to the public since then. With the Marines of CAG 3 working closely with the administration council, projects like this are being made possible throughout the Albu Hawa area.

Robison described how the Marines are helping the Albu Hawa administrative council to go directly to their local government without Coalition Forces having to act as a moderator.

“Rather than having the Marines coordinate (projects), we’re helping the Iraqis work with their own government,” Robison said. “At some point we (the Marines) are going to be gone and the local sheiks are going to have to fix their own problems. They have to learn the system and learn how to go to the right people to make things happen.”

Robison said that the Albu Hawa administrative council is progressively getting the recognition they need to during the reconstruction phase. While security is stabilizing, the tribal leaders can shift their focus on the development of the community.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Robison said. “We have a community that was afflicted with violence and now they’re seeing security and things are starting to pick up. They’re able to focus on other basic things such as medical facilities, schools and water— and lately, the administrative council has been able to accomplish many things.”