Marines provide humanitarian aid to local nationals in Iraq

22 Nov 2006 | Cpl. James B. Hoke

Traveling across the barren lands of Iraq, the Marines with 3rd Squad conducted a Mounted Combat Patrol to provide humanitarian assistance to the local nationals in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, Nov. 8.

Third Squad is with 3rd Platoon, Bravo Battery, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), and left the confinements of Al Asad Air Base to deliver school supplies, clothing and many more needful items to the Iraqi children and adults.

"Our main focus was to do humanitarian aid, drop of school supplies to the students and attempt to catch any personnel trying to use (the community) to start up an insurgency," said Sgt. Michael D. Riggs, patrol leader, 3rd Squad. "I was the patrol leader for the section doing the humanitarian portion, ensuring the children in that village were receiving their school supplies and everything was getting taken care of in that town."

Although there is a war going on and several people are afraid of military personnel, by just showing their presence and their sincerity, the Marines were able to show the local nationals there is a softer side to the U.S. forces in Iraq.

"I think from the way I observe them when we get there, they have a sense of security when we are there and appreciated when we show that we are friendly," said Lance Cpl. Adam R. Sorensen, gunner, 2nd Team, 3rd Squad, and a South Jordan, Utah, native. "In this area, I haven't seen any hostility toward us, and I think the locals think of us here as a good thing."

"When we first came here and over the past couple of years, our patrols were more on an offensive type of movement through," said Riggs, a 22-year-old Los Angeles, native. "A lot of the Marines came here with the mindset that everyone is bad, so by us coming in and doing the meet and greet thing and providing humanitarian aid, the Iraqis get a chance to see the other side of us and see the change that is going on. While security is still the number one thing on these missions, we can also assist them by getting them the things they need -- things they normally can't get a hold of."

While the Mounted Combat Patrols are providing the local nationals with things that will benefit them, there are certain challenges and obstacles that the Marines who conduct these patrols have to overcome.

Doing everything from maintaining the gear that they drive over hundreds of miles of rough, unexplored terrain to standing up for hours at a time observing endless miles of desert, the Marines are faced with maintaining a positive mindset of the locals while staying alert for threats.

"The most challenging aspect is getting out of that mindset that all of the Iraqis and local nationals are hostile," said Riggs, a Sunny Hills High School graduate. "Getting the Marines into the mindset that there are a lot of good people out here who actually want to see change is a challenge. You still have to maintain a defensive posture when entering these towns, but at the same time, you can't be hostile toward these people."

The Marines have a positive image of their jobs and the reasons why they are here, according to Cpl. Benjamin J. Banfield, assistant vehicle commander, 1st Team, 3rd Squad.

"I like getting away from the base and seeing some of the countryside and what's going on out there," said Banfield, a 26-year-old native of Cuba City, Wis. "It gives you a sense that you are protecting the base, which we are. We make it safer for the soldiers, Marines and sailors on base, so that they can do their job.

"I think the jobs that we do as a whole -- Mounted Combat Patrols, Perimeter Patrols, towers, Entry Control Points, Tactical Air Command Center Security and all of that stuff -- is really good," added the graduate of Herzin College. "It's a mission that needs filled, and we are filling it. It's not the most action-packed job, but it still needs to be done, and if no one did it, there would probably be a lot of problems on Al Asad. I feel really good about that."

Disclaimer -- Photos associated with the article can be found at the following links:

1 -
2 -
3 -
4 -
5 -
6 -
7 -