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Lt. Cmdr. Michael Tomlinson, a Navy chaplain with Task Force 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, helps a young Iraqi boy and his father try on the child's new shoes, Nov. 18 in Saqlawaiyah, Iraq. During one of the last operations before the battalion departed the area, about 500 pairs of childrenâ??s shoes were donated to Iraqi families as part of the ongoing "Operation Happy Feet," headed by Tomlinson. The battalion is now part of Regimental Combat Team 5 and will be operating out of Rawah.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Schmidt

Task Force 1st Bn., 2nd Marines leaves behind working Iraqi infrastructure; joins Fighting Fifth

14 Dec 2008 | Lance Cpl. Scott Schmidt

Task Force 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment recently received official word that the battalion was relocating to another area of operations and would fall under the command of Regimental Combat Team 5, known as the Fighting Fifth.    

During the preparations for the movement, the battalion’s operational tempo did not slow down. The security and stability of the Iraqi communities remained a priority until the Marines left Camp Habbaniyah.

In the days leading up to the battalion’s departure from RCT-1’s area of operation, Marines with Company B, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines continued operations by providing security and overwatch for a mass shoe donation, one of the last operations the battalion conducted in its old area of operation.

About 500 pairs of children shoes were donated to Iraqi families as part of “Operation Happy Feet,” an initiative headed by the battalion chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Tomlinson. The shoes were provided by donations from individual Americans and by special interest groups like Spirit of America.

“Operation Happy Feet gave a sense of empowerment to the Iraqi leadership by facilitating their involvement, not only in a military sense, but in humanitarian outreach as well,” explained Sgt. Tim Maurer, 25, a squad leader with 1st Bn., 2nd Marines from Fairhope, Ala.

“We continued overwatch operations in order to maintain a relationship which we built working hand-in-hand each day with Iraqis,” said Sgt. Brian Licht, 24, a squad leader with 1st Bn., 2nd Marines from Katy, Texas. “The Marines felt a sense of responsibility to the communities they have worked with.”

Licht added that providing overwatch and allowing the Iraqis to take the lead on civil and military operations led to the battalion’s success in Habbaniyah and the surrounding areas.

From the time of their arrival in Iraq, the battalion took on an enthusiastic approach to both security and humanitarian operations. Over the course of the battalion’s time in Habbaniyah, countless hours were dedicated to assisting Iraqi community leaders and security forces in conducting counterinsurgency operations, cooperative medical engagements, city council meetings, day labor projects, school supply donations and other municipal and economic projects. Marines supported Iraqi officials in western al-Anbar province with humanitarian solutions to build a sustainable community for Iraqis.

“Our mission was successful throughout the deployment,” stated Licht. “We knew our job and continued to do so until we left.” 

Iraqi citizens experienced exponential growth in both their economy and in the ability of Iraqi leaders to provide essential services to the communities they represent, explained Sheik Abdu Allah, a ranking member of the Saqlawaiyah awakening council, during the shoe donation.

“It is a wonderful partnership we have built with the communities and Marines,” said Allah.

“These projects provided a work base for the community and taught Iraqis valuable trades, which they can continue to use,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Ashton, officer–in-charge of Civil Affairs Team 4, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, which operates near Habbaniyah.         

Over the past months, the Iraqis diligently worked toward security and stability within the community.  The battalion focused on assisting to meet these goals, facilitating local leadership’s ability to take the lead and begin making governmental decisions noticeably absent of coalition force input. 

Now that the battalion is a part of RCT-5, it plans to continue its mission and help the ISF and local Iraqis in Rawah and the surrounding area until the conclusion of its deployment.