February 4th, 2006 10:15 EST
Marines assist Iraqis in Hit
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HIT, Iraq (Feb. 1, 2006) -- As Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines patrol the streets of Hit, Iraq, a few extra Marines are with them. Security is not their sole focus. Their mission is to assist the municipal government and to ensure the insurgency is defeated by Iraqis. They are civil affairs Marines.
Cincinnati-area native, Maj. Tom A. Shoemake, leads his six-man team of Marines daily in Al Anbar province. His men know that in a counterinsurgency effort the firefights and kinetic battles, while important, do not dictate the outcome. The establishment of a legitimate local government, public services and economic revitalization will defeat the insurgency in Hit.
Since September, this small group of Marines has met with the de facto local leaders, both civic and religious, and made recommendations to Coalition commanders who operate in the region.
Some of our missions include empowering selected local governments, increasing municipal effectiveness, moving the city closer to transitional readiness, and establishing a solid, trustworthy relationship with the people we are trying to help, " said Shoemake.
These Marines are reservists, activated and deployed to Iraq with the 6th Civil Affairs Group from Camp Lejeune, N.C.
One of the detachment`s supporters and beneficiaries is Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Drew Smith. His battalion, the ground combat element for the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), works daily with the civil affairs (CA) team.
They are an important element to the overall mission, " said Smith. They are the bridge to the local city`s leadership. "
Smith emphasized that the Iraqi people of Hit are key to defeating the insurgency, and every patrol conducted by his Marines and the Iraqi Army is important. He continually emphasizes the continuous presence and dialogue with the civilian population.
Gunnery Sgt. Michael Obermeyer, a Wichita, Kan. native and civil affairs Marine, said that his Marines deal with the same rigors as other Marines and Iraqi forces. The threat of improvised explosive devices and enemy contact are quite real, but the job must be done.
Having met with thousands of residents to better understand their needs and fears, Obermeyer and the CA Marines are developing a trusting partnership in which the people feel safe with Marines and Iraqi Army.
Programs designed to put Hit citizens in paying jobs are gaining momentum, with the increasing understanding that the insurgency is waning. Recently, Iraqis lined up to receive their municipal uniforms, each explaining their gratitude for the opportunity to earn a living, something the insurgency cannot offer.
Progress is steadily moving in a positive direction ", remarked Shoemake.
Rebuilding a city takes 10% time, 10% patience, and 80% love. In our line of work you have to want to help people who can`t necessarily help themselves, " said Philadelphia native, Cpl. Robert M. Ouellette.
Obermeyer describes Ouellette as popular with the younger crowd in Hit, as he is usually armed with bags of candy as he patrols. The children swarm around the smiling Marine, glad to see him, but likely happier to receive the sugary treats he willingly puts in their tiny hands. Building friendly relationships with the children are believed to pay dividends in the future explained one Marine.
With the assistance of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, the civil affairs team has raised the degree of doubt the people of Hit have in the insurgency.
In addition to Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, MSSG-22, and HMM-261 (Rein), and is conducting counterinsurgency operations with an Iraqi Army battalion under the tactical control of the 2nd Marine Division.
Source: 2nd Marines