AL HILLAH, Iraq -- Representatives from several coalition countries met July 31 to express their gratitude to the leaders of a local tribe for their cooperation in the ongoing reconstruction efforts in southern Iraq.
Iraqis, Australians, British and Poles and civilian contractors, as well as soldiers and Marines attached to the Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center in Al Hillah attended the informal dinner. Afterward, the leader of the Taie tribe, Sheik Haj. Mah di Abbass, was honored for his work in helping the coalition forces rebuild southern Iraq.
"The locals have had us over to dinner numerous times," said Maj. Robert Broody, a HACC member. "This is just sort of a way to pay them back for their hospitality."
"They've shown us friendship and kindness," Brood added. "We're trying to do the same. They're our best force protection."
With over seventy people in attendance from all over the world, Abbass was presented with a photo album containing pictures of members of his tribe working with military forces on various improvement projects all over Al Hillah, as well as an American flag.
"This will make our strong friendship even stronger," said Abbass through a translator.
"I consider myself your front line of defense," said Abbass. "If you ever need any help, we'd be happy to help you. You are like brothers to us."
During the dinner, members of the different nations sat talking and eating, and when language became a barrier, sign language was used.
"I'm really happy to meet the locals," said Maj. Dariusz Pawlik, a planner for the Polish forces. "As a planner, I need to know who I'll be working with. If I was just sitting in camp, I wouldn't be able to plan properly. This dinner is a very good thing."
"This really firms the steps the Coalition and U. S. forces are taking to build respect with the Iraqi people," said Lance Cpl. Toimio Ha, a security team attached to 3rd Civil Affairs Group, which is based Camp Pendleton, Calif. "We're not just here to do our jobs, but to make friends and build long-term relationships. This is a true example of the civil affairs mission."