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U.S. Soldiers, Marines Provide Humanitarian Assistance

American Forces Press Service

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq, Jan. 5, 2005 – Marines and soldiers started the new year distributing humanitarian supplies to needy residents of a local community, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported today.

The troops were from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, serving under the command of the 1st Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

The 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, along with Detachment 3, 4th Civil Affairs Group, delivered blankets, food and shoes to residents of the small Kurdish town of Taash, southwest of Ramadi, Jan. 2.

"This is an important mission for our soldiers and the Iraqi people," said Col. Gary S. Patton, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "We are in Iraq to not only secure the area from hostile, violent insurgents, but also to try to make innocent Iraqi lives better."

During the operation, members of the brigade passed out more than 9,500 humanitarian daily rations, 4,500 blankets and more than 3,000 pairs of shoes to more than 400 households. In all, the daylong mission served to improve the lives of more than 4,000 people.

"Where we see a need, we try to fill that need," said Marine Lt. Col. Daniel Murner, commander of Detachment 3. "Here we saw some people who definitely needed some food and blankets over the winter months."

Each family received two boxes of rations and five to 10 blankets, Murner said. Shoes were left behind for the residents to sort through and find pairs that fit them. Children also received hundreds of soccer balls, candy and other items during the mission.

Village leaders were pleased, Murner said, noting that gaining and maintaining positive relationships with the local populace is key to establishing a more safe and secure environment in Iraq.

"They were very happy we came down there to help these people," he said. "Village leaders were helpful to the mission because they were quickly enlisted to help organize the residents and help establish order."

Taash is an Iranian Kurd refugee camp built by the United Nations in 1982. Refugees are mostly political refugees who are unemployed. There is no industry in the area, so the community relies on humanitarian aid for its survival.

In addition to the humanitarian supply mission, the units are working on longer-term community improvement projects, such as a local health clinic and an improvement on the local water pumping station.

"(We want to show the local population that) multinational forces are not here to impose our will on them," Murner said. "We are here to improve their living conditions."

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