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24th MEU (SOC), builds soccer field for local Iraqi village

17 Apr 2003 | Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

If someone was to take a walk through the village of Hasam, Iraq, they couldn't help but notice a town that looks like something described in a biblical setting. Mud houses baked by the harsh sun line small dirt alleys as the sounds of goats and chickens are heard in some of the resident's yards. Children play with rocks and sticks and local women make their way to the village's water source carrying large tubs on their heads, which will be filled with the day's water supply.

One would also notice the bullet holes in the surrounding walls and the destruction caused by members of the Ba'ath party who took residence in the village during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While this setting may sound very harsh for people accustomed to living in the United States, there is a new sence of hope in the village as Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) do their part to help the villagers resume their normal lives.

After spending two days here taking notes and fixing up a local schoolhouse, Marines from the 24th MEU continued their efforts to help rebuild Iraq by making a soccer field for the small village.

The field, which came equipped with goal posts and benches, courtesy of Marines from MEU Service Support Group 24, is a small step in helping the villagers recover from years of living under Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party regime.

"Basically we are giving the kids somewhere to play," said Gunnery Sgt. Wayne Osbourne, team staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, 4th Civil Affairs Group, attached to the 24th MEU. "We are also building them some benches and tables and fixing up some other parts of the school we didn't get to yesterday."

The MEU arrived in the village at mid-morning and began to level the ground just outside the local school with their heavy equipment.

At the same time, other Marines went to work building tables and benches for the children to use in their schoolhouse.

After several hours of moving dirt around, it was time to put goal posts on the new field. The goal post were cut and welded together the night before by welders from MSSG-24 and then loaded onto a tractor-trailer truck that brought them out to the field.

For this occasion, several men and children from the village lent a helping hand to the Marines who lowered the steel structures from the bed of a truck.

Once the goal posts where put in place, Marines from the MSSG broke out some old camouflage netting and put that around the goal posts.

With the field now complete, the MSSG had one more gift for the village, a soccer ball that has traveled with the unit since it left Camp Lejeune, N.C. back in August of 2002.

"This ball has the names of all places unit has been on this deployment," said Lt. Col. Wes S. Weston, Commanding Officer, MSSG-24 as he handed the ball to Shaib Karem, local schoolteacher and soccer coach. "Now go play soccer."

As the ball was passed around some of the Marines joined in and spent a few minutes before returning to their trucks and heading back to their base camp, taking shots on the new goals.

"I am a very big fan of football," said Karem. " The villagers would just like to say thank you to the Marines for everything they have done."

"This village is a work is a work in progress," said Osbourne. "While they are asking for things like medical care and security, the MEU is doing what it can until some of the international agencies can get in here and offer them more assistance."