BAGHDADI, Iraq -- An Iraqi man with sweat dripping off of his brow reaches into a bucket to grab a handful of mortar. He spreads the thick paste across a half built wall under the scorching midday sun in Baghdadi, Iraq, June 19. This is a common occurrence in any part of Iraq, but what makes this scene special is that the Iraqis are paying for the labor and materials -- not the American people.
"The Iraqis are taking things into their own hands," said Gunnery Sgt. Erik E. Duane, detachment chief, Detachment 1, 3rd Civil Affairs Group, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. "They are starting to do their own improvement projects."
Iraqis in the area have taken it upon themselves to rebuild their communities without monetary support from the U.S. government.
"For most local projects we give to the Iraqis, the contractors need to send the idea and the projected costs to me and I run it through my chain of command for approval," said Duane, a native of Westminster, Calif. "Now, they are starting to use their own funds to pay for construction of property."
The locals have also started a number of their own projects without the help or resources of the American government.
"This is a huge step because it is something that is rarely heard of," said Duane. "We have been using taxpayers' dollars to do much of the reconstruction since we liberated Iraq and I think some of the locals just got used to the U.S. assistance. Now, we are starting to see the people in areas that are fairly secure raise money from within and do their own infrastructure projects."
"We have to start doing things for ourselves," said Mul-Allah Hamreen, local contractor. "We need to pay for our own future."
Hamreen is also a local resident and is currently building a liquid propane gas distribution center to allow the locals to get the gas at a reasonable price.
"The locals are going to do a lot of work on the distribution center," said Duane. "They are building a higher wall and constructing some buildings for workers and security guards to conduct their business."
According to Cpl. Jesus O. Luna, civil affairs noncommissioned officer, Detachment 1, these are huge steps of accomplishment for the people of Iraq.
"When men, like the locals at Baghdadi, surpass this goal of stability and normality we expect to obtain, it is remarkable," said Luna, a native of Imperial Beach, Calif. "It shows that people in Iraq are not just here for a hand-out."
The Iraqis know that the American government will be there to help them rebuild, but they also know that this is their country and that they need to take an active role in the reconstruction.
"We need to rebuild our own towns," said Hamreen. "The Americans have done so much for us. Now, we need to help ourselves. We need to do this for ourselves."
The Marines are confident about the future successes of Iraq and its people.
"It only takes one person to make a difference and we have a town on our side," said Luna. "There is still work to do in Iraq, but this is a step in the right direction."