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Staff Sgt. Richard A. Gonzales, team chief, Detachment 1, Civil Affairs Team 3, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, takes advantage of the safe surroundings during one of the meetings with Hit city officials April 23. CAT 3 tries to encourage officials to find Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems. By meeting with city officials, the Marines are able to give better advice if their help is required.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

Hit CAG guides government

24 Apr 2008 | Lance Cpl. Paul Torres 1st Marine Division

The war in Iraq has shifted from fighting to rebuilding. In response to this, the Marine Corps has several teams to specialize in civil operations.

Marines with Civil Affairs Team 3, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, have been working with Hit officials since February. 

“We are here to monitor the progress of the government and economics through key leadership engagements,” said 1st Lt. Timothy J. Rajcevich, 25, from Waukegan Ill., civil affairs team leader, Detachment 1, CAT 3. “The main thing is for us to find parallels between what the city officials are telling us and what the people are saying.”

By attending city council meetings and meeting with other influential figures within the Hit community and its surrounding areas, CAT 3 is able to assess how to help.

“Back in March, (Hit) switched from Coalition forces being largely in charge of town security to Iraqi provincial control,” said Staff Sgt. Richard A. Gonzales, 26, from Orange County, Calif., who is the team chief for Detachment 1.

One of the primary missions of CAT 3 is to encourage the Iraqi government to start taking the majority of the responsibility for the welfare of its people.

“When we meet with city officials, we ask them, ‘What project do you want to do, how do you want to do it and how can we help?,’” said Rajcevich. “Our role is to guide them to find an Iraqi solution to an Iraqi problem.” 

The Marines also encourage the people to rely on their government instead of expecting to have the help of Coalition forces.

The civil affairs Marines strive to assist the government to provide the people within the Hit district with security, water and reliable electricity.

There have been several projects to build water treatment plants that will provide water for people within the Hit district.

“It is good for the government to help with a project like the water treatment plant because then they will see it as something they worked on and will take better care of it,” said Sam J. Saib, 50, from San Diego, Calif., a bilingual, bicultural advisor and liaison officer with the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team for the Hit district.

The importance for self-sufficiency has become greater as Coalition forces have begun to take a step back and let the people of Iraq govern themselves.

“I can’t change the infrastructure, but if I can help out with a few projects, then we will be able to help achieve something for the future of the people of Iraq,” said Saib.

1st Marine Division