The new cleanup in Ramadi

LA Times:

Lt. Sayce W. Falk stopped mid-stride and stood in the dust-fine, silvery sand. He smiled serenely at the scene ahead.

"Good. That is good," the lanky Marine said in a quiet, almost reverential tone as he watched workers load filth into the back of an orange dump truck. "It makes me happy, just to see them working."

It would be an understatement to say that Falk has a passion for picking up trash. Like the other Marines in his infantry unit, the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Falk sees trash pickup as the key to maintaining security in Ramadi, where a decision last year by Sunni Arab tribal leaders to turn against insurgents has brought calm to the once-violent capital of Anbar province.

Falk is one of several members of the unit who were in Ramadi in early 2006, when U.S. convoys raced down the main drag at 65 mph to dodge insurgent gunfire. Every patrol risked hitting buried bombs or being caught in a gun battle.

The situation had changed by the time the unit returned in April. Marines trained as snipers, tank experts and riflemen found those skills unnecessary here. Instead, they became masters of municipal mess, working under the theory that the way to keep the Iraqi city from going back to the insurgency was by improving the quality of life, from the fetid ground up.

Now, instead of worrying about roadside bombs, they worry about puddles.

"That's a new one!" Falk said as he walked down Ramadi's main drag. Water gurgled from beneath the sand. The tiny ripples were a sign of a leaking underground pipe, and Falk made a note to alert the city's sewage manager about it.

Marines actually know quite a bit about cleaning up an area. We spent so much time doing that in OCS that we joked that the then Marine recruiting slogan should be changed from "The Marine Corps Builds Men" to "The Marine Corps Builds Janitors."

In Ramadi the clean environment will help the people get back to normal and if there were any terrorist left, it would make it much more difficult to hide IEDs.


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