Marines bring smiles to Iraqi children

1 Apr 2008 | Cpl. Erik Villagran

 Lance Cpl. Edwin S. Contreras, an assaultman with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, knows the best way to let the Iraqi people know that Marines are here to help is through the children.

Marines with Company I conducted a security patrol March 29 through the city of Hit, Iraq, to ensure all is running smoothly in the city. 

 “The purpose of the patrol was to provide security for the people and to build rapport with them,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Barnes, 21, a team leader with Company I from Fairbanks, Alaska. “We’re still looking for suspicious things or anything we can do to hinder insurgent activity.”

As Marines walked through the city they handed out treats to kids who approached the patrols. Although some of the kids seemed timid at first, once they saw the candy their fears disappeared. Marines felt that making the extra effort for the kids would demonstrate the good Marines are doing.

“Giving out candy is good for our rapport with the people,” said Contreras, 19, from Pico Rivera, Calif. “We win over the hearts of the kids, the parents see that and we win the people over.”

Barnes understands the importance of making the kids happy, but to keep kids from disrupting his patrol he had to tell them through an interpreter to keep their distance.

“We don’t always bring candy out because when we do they like to swarm our patrols,” Barnes said. “We only do it now and then so they know we’re trying to help.”

When Marines stopped at houses to speak with residents of the neighborhood, the kids followed and watched Marines post security.

“We got to sit down with some people and talk about some interesting stuff,” Barnes said. “We try to put a face to the Marines so they know we’re human too.”

Marines asked questions through an interpreter and spent the majority of the time listening to what the people had to say. They received insight on how the community feels about the Iraq Provisional Security Force, Iraqi Police and Marines.

Marines left the last house on their patrol feeling good about how their patrol went.

 “The patrol went smooth,” Contreras said. “We got to talk to a lot of people. Most of our patrols are about building rapport with the people. We accomplished our mission out there.”