Lt. Col. Jason Bohm reports on Laguna Niguel's sister city in Iraq
Lt. Col. Jason Bohm reports in

The success of Marine operations in the city of Al Qaim is a model for the Anbar Province, said Lt. Col. Jason Bohm in a talk to the Laguna Niguel City Council and residents Tuesday night. "And Anbar Province is a model for Iraq," he added.

Bohm spoke to the council about economic and political success in Al Qaim, recently established as a sister city to Laguna Niguel. He took command last year, and in that time the Marines of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines brought together the 21 tribal sheiks in the area, organized Iraqi police stations, and helped build a stronger Iraqi government and military.

"If we can help the community and provide services, it takes power away from insurgents," he said.

When Bohm arrived in Al Qaim, there was no water and no electricity. The state-owned phosphate plant that made fertilizer was down and the cement factory was operating at 50 percent capacity. Marines used the railroad to bring in fuel for both operations, and employment kept people out of trouble, he said.

Marines restored water and power, helped set up a regional market, and organized trash trucks to take garbage to the dump. They put up walls around the military encampment to protect against explosions, and asked small children to paint them.

The military set up vocational training, and 254 students have since graduated. Marines offered contracts to small businesses if they would hire graduates from the schools.

Bohm thanked the city's Military Support Committee, organized to help Marines and their families of the 1/4, for sending soccer balls and uniforms. "We have 516 kids playing soccer and not laying out IEDs (improvised explosive devices)," he said.

Marines developed a local Agricultural Association, set up produce and meat markets, and encouraged the Iraqis to look at long term growth with planned budgets.

"Through the sister city relationship we can follow economic development," he said.

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