MAHAWEEL, Iraq -- Beneath the shifting sands of the Iraqi desert rests an ocean of crude oil. Under the former regime of Saddam Hussein, the oil was treated like a prize for the dictator, which he used to fund his military ambitions and enormous palaces.
Now, soldiers from the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade of Norristown, Pa. and military policemen from the 1st Force Service Support Group are working together to provide fuel to the Iraqi people.
According to Army Sgt. 1st Class Tim Bucci, 358th CA Brigade fuel team member, more than 2 million liters of diesel fuel have been delivered to the Sedda Fuel Storage Facility outside of Mahaweel, in Babil province. The fuel is then distributed out to the various provinces in southern Iraq, which is the area of operations for the First Marine Expeditionary Force.
The fuel is transported from the Shaeba refinery in Basra by local truck drivers contracted by the Marines.
"We go and pick the (trucks) up right outside Basra, and provide security for them on the way here," said Cpl. Brian Lee, 1st Force Service Support Group military policeman, from Liberty, Ky. "We escort the empty trucks back to Basra."
At least $50,000 in seized Ba'ath Party funds has been provided to contractors to deliver the fuel, providing a boost to the Iraqi economy as well as needed fuel to Iraqi people for them to work and travel.
"Every drop of fuel goes back to the Iraqi economy," said Bucci, a native of Norristown, Pa. "All we do is provide escort and pay the truck drivers."
Polish Army Master Staff Sgt. Cistak Wit, who will be taking over for Bucci when the Multinational Division Center-South assumes responsibility for the Marine's area of operations.
"It will be a very high target for me, what the Marines have been doing," said Wit, who is from Kelca, Poland.