With arrival of Spanish, 3/5 Marines head home

28 Aug 2003 | Army Sgt. Troy Chatwin

One of the most welcome sights to Marines and soldiers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment was a military convoy full of soldiers.What makes these newest arrivals so special is that they are soldiers of the Spanish Plus-Ultra Brigade - the Marines' replacements.After arriving, the nearly 1,400 Spanish soldiers made quick work of meeting all the players in town including the battalion commander, the mayor, and the local clerics. They quickly found common threads with the people of Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq."Our experiences in Bosnia and Afghanistan in civil-military operations and Spain's history with the Arab world will be very valuable," said Spanish Army Maj. Juan Carlos Garcia-Vaquero, brigade operations officer.In addition to the legionnaires from Spain, three battalions from the South American countries of the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and El Salvador are en route to fill out the Coalition Forces for the capital city for the province. The Polish-led Multinational Division Center-South will have overall responsibility for the former Marine area of operations in southern Iraq.The newly formed team has already begun operating together to work out any bugs that might develop by different countries working for each other."Just weeks ago we finished a (Command Post Exercise) with the Polish headquarters in Hillah," Garcia said. "We have also sent 50 soldiers from our unit to Warsaw to train with the Polish."The Spanish recognize that the main efforts they will have to take up are those related directly with the people of the city."Our main efforts will be to improve electricity, the water supply, and fuel distribution," said Spanish Army Maj. Juan Lewis Gonzales-Martin, governate support team leader.Gonzales' brother, Spanish Army Maj. Vincente Gonzales-Martin, the logistics officer for the newly deployed battalion, acknowledged the soldiers face challenges."We will have some difficulty with logistics as our main supply base is in Spain," said the major, who is in charge of material. "Other challenges will be the heat, water and maintenance. We already have a good deal of local contractors to help us."Both brothers know there are unknown obstacles they will have to deal with and have been working closely with the command staff of the Marine battalion at Camp Get Some.The Spaniards' number one problem will be "maintaining stability," said Maj. Rod Legowski, a native of Toledo, Ohio and battalion executive officer."Security remains the number one concern throughout the province," said Legowski. "During the transition of government and vying of power by several different religious and political groups, it is virtually impossible to please everyone."Other challenges Legowski thinks the new troops will face include the Iraqi heat, a language barrier, and trying to improve the city's struggling electric and water treatment systems."Everyone is sure the Marines have done good work," Garcia said. "We are proud of what they have done and will try to follow in their footsteps."The departing Marines have faith the Spanish will take care of the city they have called home for the past several months."The Spaniards appear very motivated and professional," Legowski said. "They have experience in security and stability operations from the Balkans area and many of these men and women are not on their first deployments. We are confident that they will adjust to the unique conditions in Iraq and continue to build upon the success we have had."