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Reserve Marines assist Al Anbar Provincial Government

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2005523133058
Story by Capt. Julianne H. Sohn

CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, RAMADI, Iraq (May 22, 2005) -- The 20-year-old, reserve Marine from Salisbury, Md. often stands guard outside of meetings at the Government Center and each time he does this, he helps make history.

Lance Cpl. Brendon Neemar of the Governance Support Team, 5th Civil Affairs Group is one of about 20 Marines, who are dedicated to supporting the recently formed Al Anbar Provincial government.

“We try to help get planning done, get projects into the city and make life better for their people,” said Neemar, a student at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.

Neemar assists with the administrative needs of the GST and also pulls duty as a driver and gunner. His work helps the rest of the team accomplish their mission.

“We work with top level Provincial government officials,” said Lt. Col. Bill Brown, GST commander and Milford, Conn. resident. “In this case, it is a time of transition for them and we are trying to help get them established and help empower them.”

Brown has led the GST during a time when the Provincial Council formed and selected a new governor, who was then kidnapped. Despite these obstacles, the government was able to continue in their efforts.

“The Provincial Government pulled together and the Deputy Governor stood up as acting governor in a time of need,” said Brown, who is also an assistant U.S. Attorney when not on active duty. “He took control and showed great leadership and this is a sign of things to come.”

On Sunday, the Provincial Reconstruction Development Committee was formed and met for the first time at the Government Center. The committee will plan and coordinate reconstruction efforts in Al Anbar.

“All the city councils will gather their proposed reconstruction projects and send them up to Ramadi,” Brown said.

Along with facilitating and witnessing groundbreaking events like the forming of the reconstruction committee, Maj. Michael J. Jordan, officer in charge, Provincial Civil Military Operations Center, supervises a small team of GST Marines in their efforts to do outreach to the various Director Generals and assist with the Provincial Council.

Initially the Provincial Government seemed focused on Ramadi, but the GST Marines have been working to change the director generals’ thinking.

“If you really want to do it right, you have to build a plan for the Province,” said Jordan, a 44-year-old Yorba Linda, Calif. resident.

The PCMOC is a place where local Iraqis can submit claims and receive compensation payments. However the GST Marines also travel outside Ramadi to provide governance support.

Sgt. Kelly Hughes, assistant GST detachment chief and Casa Grande, Ariz. native, occasionally goes to Baghdad to help out with election planning.

“We go to Baghdad to meet with Raad Guzwan Abood. He is the government electoral officer for Al Anbar,” said Hughes, 28, who came to Iraq because he felt an obligation to serve.

Hughes said he always enjoyed politics and even had the opportunity to meet Condaleezza Rice, Secretary of State, during her recent visit to Baghdad.

“I don’t think anyone would miss to opportunity to meet her,” said Hughes, who is currently pursuing a degree in business management and was a member of the Team Marine Baseball from 2002 until 2004. “I definitely wasn’t going to miss it.”

The GST also helps out with major projects in the area like working to open up the Ramadi Glass Works to bring people back to work.

Sgt. Michael L. Whitener, a 27-year-old father of four from Oceanside, Calif. and a civil affairs noncommissioned officer, worked to scan employees of the factory through the Biometric Automated Tool Set System, which is a way to screen and identify people.

“Initially, it was the (Iraqi Security Force) who showed me how to use the BATS system,” said Whitener, who was one of the first Marines in the unit to learn how to use the system.

For the past three months, the GST Marines have seen some progress in their work with the Al Anbar Provincial Government.

“We are making headway in Ramadi, but it is slow going,” said Brown. “We are looking to pick up momentum with a new governor, the Provincial Council and the Provincial Reconstruction Development Committee.”


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