By SOF Editor on Thu, 11/12/2009 - 11:34am
Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, recently funded a well construction project to provide clean water for local Afghans.
The project, funded by 1/5's civil affairs Marines, also created jobs in the community, as local Afghan workers were contracted to dig three wells.
"Having these wells built is something that people have been asking us to do for a while now," said Cpl. Leland Van Leer, an amphibious assault vehicle operator with 1/5. "Now that we were able to get them dug, they see that we can help them."
1/5's civil affairs Marines fund work projects, collect census information, conduct battle damage assessments and visit government buildings to survey any possible improvements.
Along with restoring basic human services in the area, Marines and Afghan forces have also kept the area safe. The Marines and Afghan national army soldiers patrol the surrounding area, while also learning about the way Afghans live and things they can do to help.
"When we do patrols we try to focus on the people, not just providing security. If we were only providing security we would keep our distance from people and not interact with them," said Lance Cpl. Christopher Reyes, a squad leader with Weapons Company, 1/5.
Marines help Afghans as much as they can, but want them to learn to do things and solve problems without the help of coalition forces.
"Our goal is to keep [local Afghans] safe by providing security, but we also want to help them get started in the right direction to be able to take care of themselves," said Reyes, a 23-year-old from Mesquite, Texas. "A lot has changed for the better. The men that were paid to dig the wells understand that we are here to help them, but they have to learn to do things on their own, too."
Marines here are well liked by the local populace. However, citizens were not very accepting of the troops when they first arrived in August 2009.
"When we first got here, it was a completely different story. They were afraid of us and no one wanted to talk to us. They didn't trust us at all," said Van Leer, a 20-year-old from Kaysville, Utah.
The combined efforts of Marines and Afghan forces have helped the local populace embrace their presence in the area.
"People are very friendly toward us now. They want to socialize and come to us when they have any problems," Van Leer said.