OUTSIDE AL BA’AJ, Iraq --
When the Marine Air Ground Task Force command point travelled to outside the city of al-Ba’aj, they inherited a few new neighbors.
In order to build good relations with the people in the surrounding areas, the Jump CP Marines have been making visits and bringing presents to the families that surround them.
“We’re doing local engagements here for force protection issues, and we re-visit our neighbors to identify any changes,” said Lt. Col. Andrew J. Drake, plans officer, Jump CP, Multi-National Force – West. “Also, it’s a courtesy to promote good relations by bringing water, corpsmen, and there’s the possibility we can develop intelligence resources.”
Since arriving at the Jump CP’s current position, Drake has assembled a team of Marines, often including a corpsman, to go out and visit the families in the area almost daily.
“We have no shortage of Marines trying to go out and meet and interact with the people,” said Drake, a 39-year-old from Clinton, N.Y.
Cpl. Abinadi Cordova, a motor transport mechanic from Marine Air Support Squadron 3, has accompanied Drake to the scattered houses and tents that surround the Marines’ austere camp. The visits have helped him gain a new perspective on the people of Iraq, he said.
“It’s easier to judge people once you have met them,” said Cordova, a 26-year-old from Houston, Tex. “And since I’ve met the people of the country, I am now able to make my own judgments.”
The villagers are all very warm and welcome to the Marines. Not only do they enjoy the Marines presence in the area, but are happy to hear what the Marines plan on accomplishing.
“We feel safe that they are here, and if they stay we will be happy,” said Ali Awad, an Iraqi farmer who lives close to the Marines. “Your presence will help solve many problems, because the terrorists will be afraid to come back and we will be able to set up security.”
Though Drake said he enjoyed making trips to Iraqis in the area for just the neighborly aspect, making the Marines presence known is essential to the MAGTF in Nineweh’s mission.
“Part of our intent is to promote our presence,” said Drake. “That way we can get the people talking, which is another source of intelligence, and it will make the insurgents in the area react.”
In order to grease the skids in obtaining information from the Iraqis, the Marines have ensured that they are helpful to their neighbors and bring gifts of bottled water and medical aid whenever possible.
“Just today, after helping a farmer in the area by bringing him water and having a corpsman look at his baby, he began telling us about al-Qaida in Iraq operating in al-Ba’aj,” Drake said. There’s the humanitarian, chivalrous side to our help, and the force protection issue that serves our mission.”