By Marine Corps Cpl. Sean P. McGinty
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 18, 2008 - Marines have been delivering gifts of bottled water and medical aid to their Iraqi neighbors outside the city here. "We're doing local engagements here for force-protection issues, and we revisit our neighbors to identify any changes," said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Andrew J. Drake, plans officer, Jump Command Point, Multinational Force West. "Also, it's a courtesy to promote good relations by bringing water [and medical] corpsmen, and there's the possibility we can develop intelligence resources."
Since arriving at the Jump Command Point'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," Drake said.
Marine Corps 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 Iraqi people, he said.
"It's easier to judge people once you have met them," Cordova said. "And since I've met the people of the country, I am now able to make my own judgments."
The villagers are warm and welcoming, the Marines said.
"We feel safe that they are here, and if they stay we will be happy," said Ali Awad, an Iraqi farmer. "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 the neighborly trips to Iraqis in the area, making the Marines' presence known is essential to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force's mission in Iraq's Ninevah province.
"Part of our intent is to promote our presence," Drake said. "That way we can get the people talking, which is another source of intelligence, and it will make the insurgents in the area react.
"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 Baaj," Drake continued. "There's the humanitarian, chivalrous side to our help, and the force-protection issue that serves our mission."
(Marine Corps Cpl. Sean P. McGinty serves with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Forward.)