AN NAJAF, Iraq -- Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) distributed more than $570,000 in condolence and collateral damage repair payments here, Oct. 25, to demonstrate goodwill to Iraqis caught in the crossfire during fighting here this past August.
Payments began on Sept. 30 and have resulted in a total of $1.9 million paid to more than 2,660 Najafis since then. Payments will continue as long as needed to meet each valid case.
"(The payments) let the rest of the world see how we are, how we take care of business. We're helping (Iraqis) re-stabilize their country," said Lance Cpl. Robert A. Lees, a Meza, Ariz., native and 60mm mortar gunner, Weapons Platoon, Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th MEU (SOC). "It shows them that we're here for other reasons than just to fight."
Condolence payments, known as solatia, are being paid to express sympathy to those injured or who lost a family member during the fighting. Collateral damage repair payments are intended for Iraqis who experienced damage to their home, business or other property.
"It's a good thing. The quicker we get them back on their feet, the quicker the centralized government can take over," said Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Thummel, a Phillipsburg, Kansas, native and 81mm mortar forward observer attached to Weapons Platoon, B Co., BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC). "Our role is to provide security for the payment team and assist the ING and IPs. We are making sure they do the searches correctly and help with crowd control."
Subsequently, MEU Marines continue to spend millions of dollars to contract local Iraqi businessmen and workers to repair public infrastructure damaged during the fighting.
"Now that Najaf is secure, we're working around the clock to get this city up and running again," said Col. Anthony M. Haslam, commanding officer, 11th MEU (SOC). "These payments are one way we are showing goodwill and building trust with the locals."