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11th MEU breaks HAO record

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20051303243
Story by 11th MEU Public Affairs

FOB DUKE, Iraq (Dec. 31, 2004) -- Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit broke their own record Dec. 31, processing more than 870 Iraqis during a humanitarian assistance operation on the outskirts of the holy Shi'a city of Kufa.

Friday's operation was the seventh humanitarian assistance event conducted by 11th MEU forces in An Najaf and Al Qadisiyah provinces since October. The operation was organized by Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 11 in an effort to help the Iraqi people and demonstrate goodwill.

"For some locals, their only experience with the Marines is when the MEU was engaged in full fledged combat in August," said Capt. Chris Cannon, MSSG-11 operations officer. "Doing HAOs let them see that we are also committed to helping the people of the province in addition to the reconstruction projects the MEU has started."

MSSG-11 Marines and Sailors provided 90 citizens medical treatment and 20 citizens dental treatment during the day-long event. In addition, MEU forces passed out food, water, thick blankets, hygiene products, and more than a thousand toys and books.

Since the commencement of HAOs three months ago, more than 3,200 Iraqis have received aid. More than 800 have received medical treatment, and more than 125 have received dental treatment. In addition, 4,000 humanitarian meals have been passed out, along with 4,600 bottles of water, 1,500 thick blankets to meet the winter chill, and 800 soccer balls. Thousands of toys, books, and hygiene products donated by American citizens around the United States were also passed out.

The biggest gains from these operations however are not material or physical in nature. Instead, the gains come from the relationships and understanding that is built between the two groups.

"The biggest take away is the chance for both Iraqis and Marines to interact with each other," explained Cannon, a native of Monterey, Calif. "We all have our preconceptions about what each other is like, and any chance to get people together to deal with each other one on one helps to break down any negative preconceptions.

"At the end of the day, Marines come away feeling better about Iraqis, and hopefully Iraqis come away feeling better about Americans."

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