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    Afghan villagers embrace Marines, Afghan forces after months of hiding

    HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

    12.07.2009

    Story by Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson 

    Regimental Combat Team-7

    HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — A previous fear of the Taliban would have kept the people of Amir Agha hidden in their compounds, as Marines patrolled through their fields and town. Their willingness to talk increases with a growing since of security.

    "We want to help you. We need to talk to you. It is good," said a local village elder, as the Marines passed by his home.

    Marines from Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, along with members of the 4th Civil Affairs Group, currently attached to 2/2, and local members of the Afghan Border Police patrolled through Amir Agha, in Garmsir, Afghanistan, Dec. 2, to survey the atmosphere of the village.

    "What we saw today was pretty positive," said Maj. Matt Ciancarelli, the civil affairs group officer for 2/2. "We have people coming to talk to us, which is good, and they were seeking out the Marines in order to tell them that they're happy we're here, and they're happy that we're looking to join forces with their government in order to help them."

    Gulbodin, a local member of the ABP, who operated in the same area just a year before, has seen a significant change in the attitude of the local population.

    "The situation is good," said Gulbodin, 20, from Nawa. "It has gotten better. The people like us now, they don't hate us."

    As the Marines walked through the town, scores of children followed closely behind, hoping to get any items that the Marines may be able to give them. The Marines stopped for a few minutes to introduce themselves to the villagers, and ask a few questions about the living conditions and overall situation of the town.

    The most frequent thing that the locals asked for was a new school. The children had not attended school because the previous one is now partially destroyed, and is filled with anti-coalition propaganda, which has earned the school the moniker of "the Taliban School."

    "That's positive," said Ciancarelli, from Raleigh, N.C. "If they're asking for a school, then that means that they feel safe enough that their kids can go to school."

    The Marines spoke with one of the local teachers, who is willing to teach in the area. The teacher agreed that there is a need for a new school.

    "I am a teacher," he said. "Wherever there is a school built, I will go and teach there."

    Along with the Marines, members of the local ABP came to help with talking to the locals and to help search compounds, if needed. This helps associate the Marines with the local government, and allows the locals to see their countrymen step forward.

    While the Marines have started the dialogue with the locals, it will ultimately be the government who will make the advancements and do the work.

    "This is their country, their lead," said Ciancarelli. "We're here to assist them with the development. They've done a great deal. They're the ones showing the greatest interest from what I've seen in Garmsir so far."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 12.07.2009
    Date Posted: 12.07.2009 16:08
    Story ID: 42420
    Location: HELMAND PROVINCE, AF 

    Web Views: 737
    Downloads: 614

    PUBLIC DOMAIN