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AL ASAD, Iraq ? While researching the price of an item requested by one of the squadrons in the group, 2nd Lt. Jarvis L. Conic, Marine Aircraft Group 26 fiscal officer, and Staff Sgt. Don A. Henson, MAG-26 fiscal chief, interact with one of the local vendors Aug. 20. The Marines in the group?s fiscal office have been helping the local economy get back on its feet by doing business with vendors here.

Photo by SGT. JUAN VARA

Marines in Al Asad help Corps save cash, boost local economy

23 Aug 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

As if managing the Marine Aircraft Group 26 commanding officer’s budget wasn’t demanding enough, the Marines in the group’s fiscal office have been helping the local economy get back on its feet.

While the group is deployed, the fiscal Marines have taken the role of purchasing agents to help the Marine Corps save money.  For the last six months they have been accomplishing this and making a difference in the lives of Iraqi families who have businesses here.

After being introduced to the local vendors, the MAG-26 Marines started working with them to obtain many of the items needed by the squadrons in the group.

Staff Sgt. Don A. Henson, MAG-26 fiscal chief and Kilmichael, Miss., native, said the fiscal office has several ways to acquire items that the Marines need but are not maintained in the supply warehouse here.

Henson and his Marines can look at what’s offered by the common vendors, which are businesses that have regularly supplied the various units on Al Asad since coalition forces began working from this former Iraqi air base, but in an effort to help rebuild the local economy, they are taking their business to the vendors here.

Dealing with local vendors helps the Marines get the needed supplies at a lower cost and faster than from sources outside the country.  Anything from light bulbs to circuit breakers to computer hardware can be acquired from the vendors here.

According to 2nd Lt. Jarvis L. Conic, MAG-26 fiscal officer and native of Little Rock, Ark., the local vendors have their items readily available, which allows his department to provide better, more immediate service.

“Not only do we help the Marine Corps save money and build the local economy,” he said, “the bigger picture here is that by doing business with the local vendors we provide security for the base, use less manpower and ultimately save lives.”

Dealing with vendors here provides security for the base because they’re able to leave the installation and blend in with the community.  According to one of the vendors here, whenever he and other local vendors are out bringing in supplies they keep an eye on all activity around them and inform the Marines at the entry control points about anything suspicious.

“If we see anything happening outside the base we always tell the Marines,” he said.  “They are also our security.  Marines are here to kill the terrorists and the bad guys and we appreciate that they’re doing that for us.”

Conic explained that having the local vendors go off base to get supplies and deliver them to the requesting unit’s front door eliminates the need for Marines to go out on a convoy and saves them from the risk of improvised explosive devices or ambush attacks.

And the local vendors, who risk their lives themselves by dealing with service members, have their own safety measures.  “When we go out we have to hide any proof that we work on base,” said the vendor, who has owned a business here for the last two years and asked to remain anonymous.  “I leave my ID here and when I come back I get it back.”

Doing business with the local vendors wasn’t always easy.  Henson said that when they arrived here the Iraqis didn’t have an organized way to market their items.

According to Conic, the Marines in the MAG-26 fiscal section took the time to sit with the vendors and explain to them what they needed to do to make their business grow.  After approximately four months of the Marines teaching them about accounting, marketing and business tactics, the vendors built itemized lists of what they offer and began using a spreadsheet built by the Marines to track supply requisitions and their status.

“The local economy is growing each and every day now,” said Henson.  “We’re helping the vendors get business oriented, we’re helping them with their economy and we’re taking care of our Marines.”

Other ways for the Marines to acquire needed items is by making open purchases and having the companies ship the items here or by dealing with the common vendors who have regularly supplied units here.

Conic and his staff continue to do business with these vendors, but since the owners of their companies are larger corporations in countries such as the U.S., Kuwait or Turkey, the Marines want to spread the wealth among the locals as well.

“Their business helps all the Iraqis working here and their families back home,” said the vendor when asked about the impact that doing business with the MAG-26 Marines has on their lives.  “They have always liked to help us and everybody is happy that they’re bringing their business here.  We like the Marines.  They’re very strong and they destroy the terrorists.”

By maintaining good relationships with the local vendors and doing business with them when it’s timely and cost convenient to the Corps, the Marines in the MAG-26 fiscal office are helping make a brighter, economically stable Iraq.

Their efforts are paving the way for a better country while enhancing the locals’ confidence in the coalition force’s ability to root out those who hinder democracy and freedom for the Iraqi people.


- For more information about the Marines reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at varaj@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil -
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