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2/3 engineers educate Iraqi Army in checkpoint security

DRA DIGILA, Iraq (April 24, 2008) – Marines with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, conducted a joint project with the Iraqi Army, April 23 and 24 in a village on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq.

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Story by Cpl. Chadwick deBree

The Marines with Engineer Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines, worked hand-in-hand with Iraqi soldiers to educate them in the construction of traffic checkpoints (TCPs).

The first day, the Marines held classes to teach the Iraqis how setup barriers and wire obstacles for a TCP.

“The first day we were able to teach them what needed to be done, and it was easy to communicate with them because we had an interpreter with us to translate,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher T. Panko, fire team leader, Engineer Platoon, H&S Co., 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines. “The second day they (the interpreters) weren’t always around, but we were able to use hand and arm signals to communicate with the Iraqis. It wasn’t too difficult to work with the Iraqis. They caught on quickly and were motivated to get the work done.”

Working with the Iraqis was easy for the engineers because of their eagerness to learn from the Marines.

“They’re intelligent people and picked up everything we taught them real quickly,” said Cpl. Neil Bosco, squad leader, Engineer Platoon, H&S Co., 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines. “They’ve seen all the stuff around because it is everywhere here, but they didn’t know how to properly set it up. We were able to teach them everything in the classes and they just caught on. The only part that was a little bit difficult was the wire configuration because we barely touched it in the classes, and we didn’t have the (interpreter) to help translate. But we were able to overcome that because they really wanted to learn from us, so we used hand signals and they seemed to know what we were talking about.”

The Iraqis weren’t the only ones appreciative of the Marines’ teaching, the rest of the command was also proud of the work they had accomplished.

“We had a (military training team) major tell us that we did very well and that we exceeded their expectations,” said Staff Sgt. James L. Peebles, platoon sergeant, Engineer Platoon, H&S Co., 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines. “I was proud of them. They had to be very patient when they gave the classes because they would have to give the instruction and wait to have the (interpreter) translate it. Plus it was very hot those days and heat is a factor in protection because things are magnified by ten. From carrying supplies back and forth to just picking up a hammer, everything is a lot more strenuous in this kind of weather, but they still worked day in, day out; they were still motivated to pass on their knowledge to the Iraqis and the Iraqis were proactive in learning.”

Teaching the Iraqis how to construct things on their own is just one building block in making them self sufficient, and the Marines hope that they use their new found knowledge for good.

“What we taught them was not just so they can set up TCPs, but also to fortify their bases or (forward operating bases),” Bosco said. “Hopefully though, they also use what we taught them to start humanitarian projects, like fixing up the buildings in the area, to help their own people out and to help bring their country back to some sort of normalcy.”