2 Marines, 40 Iraqis stabilize Hamadiyah

By Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD)

HAMADIYAH, Iraq – (March 17, 2007) -- More than 40 Iraqi soldiers make a bombed-out hospital, missing large sections of walls, their home. Sunlight pours through missing pieces of the ceiling. Large portions of concrete lie in piles throughout the compound. Electricity is scarce, relying on fuel trucks to make the treacherous trip to refill one generator. Three committed U.S. servicemen are no different than the Iraqis living here.

In an effort to rebuild the order and security of a nation, two Marines and a Navy corpsman dedicate their deployment to training Iraqi soldiers of Company 4, 3rd Battalion, 1st Iraqi Regiment, 7th Iraqi Army Division. Although the 7th Division is headquartered at Camp Blue Diamond, just outside Ramadi, Iraq, Company 4 works and lives inside a small farming village on the Euphrates River; a place known as Strong Point 1, near the city of Hamadiyah.

Company 4 advisor, 1st Lt. Daniel Singer, says his two-man team and their Iraqi counterparts have formed a unique brotherhood only developed through shared hardships and extreme situations.

Since Christmas Day, 2006, the members of the Military Transition Team, deal with the same meager conditions and overcome mental challenges all for the safety of a single community where terrorism once was embedded.

Compared to the western standard of living, things are pretty dire for the Iraqi soldiers and team members. However, added Singer, “It’s nothing that’s gonna’ kill you.”

Despite dismal conditions, laughter echoes throughout the space. Iraqis, getting ready for evening dinner, gather around a fire pit located in a dark corner overlooking the Euphrates River. A large pot, filled with white rice, lies atop glowing orange embers. Circular flatbread, fresh fish and vegetables fill up each plate.

Soldiers, who just got paid, talk about leave and what they plan to do when they go home. One junior enlisted soldier, called a jundie, wants to buy a car, a BMW. He told his friend, “In Baghdad I have two cars. Now I get a BMW.” Others give most of their earnings to their family, which seems to be fundamental in Iraq. Most soldiers join not only to develop democracy in their country, but to provide for their extended families.

Generosity is natural to Iraqis and part of their culture. The sharing of food, water, ammunition, cigarettes and cellular phones is common among the soldiers.

This company was bonding. Each soldier appeared to have characteristics of a veteran. Maybe it was the gunfights or mortar attacks they had lived through that tied them to each other. It could have been living together in such tight quarters for long periods of time that created such friendships. But most likely, it was the common pride they felt in doing the courageous and honorable task of fighting together for their nation.

Singer, a native of Columbia, Md., praised the soldiers for their courage and strength in the daily fight against terrorist threats.

“They’re definitely doing better and they’re making progress,” he said of the Iraqi soldiers. “The main thing is the troops, the soldiers. They’re brave and they’re tough. That’s the kind of foundation you want. You can teach someone marksmanship, you can teach someone to do patrols, you can teach land navigation, but if someone’s a coward or if someone’s weak, you won’t be able to change that.”

Singer and his team spend their time advising, instructing and preparing this Iraqi company with the essential skills needed for combat.

Iraqi officers and senior enlisted staff noncommissioned officers lead their company on various missions. Singer and his senior enlisted advisor, Staff Sgt. Tylor Olsen, go on a number patrols to supervise, having fought beside Iraqi infantrymen on many occasions. In such a dangerous moment, trust is either built or destroyed.

“It’s like any other unit. These guys are our brothers-in-arms,” Singer said. “We’re out here sharing the same hardships, facing the same dangers. You’re doing everything together, so you automatically build a level of trust with them.”

To many Iraqi soldiers, they pride themselves in protecting innocent civilians and know sacrifices are driving out the terrorists that once intimidated this region.

“I come here and I help my country, I help save the people of Ramadi,” said Private Hossean Joad Brahem, infantryman. “Everybody know Ramadi have very many problems. Many families have left because Ramadi is not safe. I come to make it safe.”

Brahem said he sees the Marines as his friends and enjoys the training Signer and Olsen provide.

“The Marines help us a lot and always with us on patrol” he said. “We have same mission. They like our brothers.”

Brahem, like many jundies, emulates the Marines here. They shave, they hold field day every afternoon and they take orders seriously. Brahem said all Iraqis want a safe nation for their families. He called the terrorist, “Ali Babbas,” and wanted to destroy every one of them.

“I’m not afraid of these bad guys,” Brahem said. “I tell him straight to his face, ‘I will kill you.’”

Securing Iraq’s future is the main purpose for each soldier in one way or another; each member of Company 4 knows of someone or has been directly affected by a terrorist attack. Some share similar tragedies of losing family members by a suicide bomber. So, they join to make a difference. They join to protect the innocent and they join because they know it is righteous.

“We are the good guys,” said Iraqi Army Sgt. Mshtak-Taleb Salh. “(The terrorist) is evil. They will never beat my country, I make sure of it.”