HIT, Iraq --
Usually the sight of Marines and the Iraqi Provisional Security Force jawing at each other would be a bad sign. In this case though, they were actually making their bond stronger.
Marines with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, participated in a game of soccer April 10 with PSF troops to help build unity with them. Soccer games between the two units have become a routine in Hit, Iraq.
"We play them once a week," said Lance Cpl. Austin D. Breedlove, 19, a rifleman with I Co. from Gowanda, N.Y.
Marines needed three hours to pull out the 10-8 victory against the Iraqis.
"We usually lose." Breedlove said. "The first game we lost 5-0, then 5-2 and 3-2. Not today though. Today we won."
The game started off playfully on both ends, but as the minutes passed, the play intensified. Each team began to compete harder trying to win. The PSF jumped out to a 3-0 lead and Marines had to claw their way back.
The PSF and Marines understand the importance of the games. To them it is a way to make the bond they share stronger.
"These games mean we have good relations," said 2nd Lt. Marwan Naji, 24, a PSF soldier. "It makes me happy to play against the Marines."
It wasn't always apparent during the game that good relations were being built. Marines and the PSF exchanged verbal jabs while the PSF built an 8-5 lead in the game. However, both teams understood that the jawing was all in good fun.
"They can't understand us and we can't understand them, so a lot of trash talking goes on," Breedlove said. "A lot of the trash talking is physical gestures. It never gets violent out there though."
Despite the trash talking from the PSF and a big deficit in the game, the Marines were able to mount a comeback. They scored five unanswered goals to seal the victory. The PSF had a hard time accepting the loss, but came around shortly after the defeat.
"It was a good game even though we lost because we got tired," Naji said.
Marines agreed that it was their endurance that allowed them to snatch victory away from the PSF.
"It got off pretty rocky, but halfway through we started getting them with our stamina," Breedlove said.
The PSF troops were disappointed in the loss, but hopeful about future games against the Marines.
"They are good players and they played, but we are better than them," Naji said. "Next week we'll make a new team and I'm sure we'll win."
One thing is for sure, with Marines and PSF building stronger relations, the guaranteed winners are the locals in Hit.