FARAH PROVINCE, Delaram, Afghanistan --
Until just recently, local residents here in Delaram have been deprived of clean drinking water.
The inability to produce fresh water has caused some residents to resort to drawing filthy water from streams and rivers that run through their villages.
Conditions within this community have gradually begun to change, thanks to the assistance of the civil affairs Marines assigned to Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan.
These Marines, which are assigned to the task force’s 3rd Civil Affairs Group, have spearheaded numerous well water projects to give Afghan residents a reason to rejoice.
“These people are poor,” said Gunnery Sgt. Omar Palaciosreal, Team 2 chief, 3rd CAG and Moreno Valley, Calif., native. “It’s not like they can just turn on a faucet. They don’t have a faucet.”
This initiative to provide residents with fresh water is merely one of many civil military operations projects carried out by the Marines who deployed here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Other civil affairs projects include school renovation, road improvement, well restoration and the construction of nine new wells throughout the district and outlying villages.
Upon visiting the newest well site, Palaciosreal said he was very pleased with the amount of progress one well worker had made. The worker had hired additional help and was even working overtime during the religious observance of Ramadan.
“I thought this was quite significant because all the other contractors were fasting because of Ramadan, which prevented them from working a full schedule,” Palaciosreal said. “But, the guy was working nonstop on the well. Despite his fasting, he was still dedicated enough to keep working on the project.”
This well, in particular, is important to local Afghans because it is being constructed in a central area that is located within walking distance of the new Afghan National Police station. By placing the well here, the Marines feel it would benefit all residents and eliminate any stipulation that the well is owned by one person.
“I think the location is perfect, because everybody can come and get the water,” said Cpl. Ericka L. Garcia, a civil affairs Marine and Santa Ana, Calif., native. “It’s outside where everybody can use it at any time, so everybody is going to get their share. No one’s going to take it over.”
On previous patrols to the bazaar – a local shopping area, the Marines received reports of people stealing pumps and keeping them for their own personal use. Based on these reports, the CAG team sought to resolve this issue by selecting a location that was in close proximity to the police station. In doing so, the Marines hoped to provide a deterrent of future theft.
The new water wells are expected to aid in eliminating the health risks local residents faced by continuing to use contaminated river water. Before the wells were restored, residents were fetching their drinking, cooking and cleaning water in the same areas where animals roam.
“I think the new well will make conditions here better. I see where they get water, and it’s nasty,” Garcia said. “Animals walk through there, and it’s not clean. A well here is definitely going to lead to improved health within the community.”
The Marines say they aren’t only providing the Afghan people access to clean water, but also helping to create jobs. Because the contractors used by the Marines employ local laborers to help complete various civil affairs projects, local Afghans are able to put their money back into their own community.
“We’re infusing their economy by creating jobs,” Palaciosreal said. “It’s no different than being back in the U.S. We don’t just put money into the economy, we create jobs. People don’t want handouts; they want to earn what they get.”
Palaciosreal said when you employ the local people they are less likely to work with insurgents. He believes the Afghan people want to make an honest living and not be forced to make improvised explosive devices for local insurgents who oppose governance.
“They don’t want to make bombs,” Palaciosreal said. “They know it’s hurting their people, and they don’t want to do that. They’d rather build wells than create problems for their people, so it has great strategic effects. Plus, we’re doing a good thing.”
While the well projects remain under construction, Marines have handed out bottled water to help local Afghans. Once the wells are complete, the Marines expect the Afghans will increasingly gain better health and a boosted economy from the jobs that were created.
“Everybody benefits. We do our job by providing security; they get wells and access to clean water,” Palaciosreal said. “The Taliban doesn’t give them anything. Of course, we’re going to assist them. The Taliban operates through acts of fear and intimidation; we operate with acts of kindness.”