Tour arms Marines for Iraq’s industrial battlefield

21 Oct 2006 | Cpl. Chris Stankiewicz

The conflict in Iraq has many fronts, but not all involve troops and weapons.  Marines in charge of governance and economic planning for II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) recently took a step toward victory on the industrial battlefield when they toured the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan’s phosphate mining and manufacturing facility in Aurora, NC. 

Phosphate is a naturally occurring salt used to make products as diverse as fertilizer and toothpaste.  PCS is located on one of the largest deposits of the substance in the United States and is the most productive phosphate processing facility in the nation.  The Marines’ visit familiarized them with facets of the operation ranging from environmental reclamation to safety standards.  The tour provided insight into logistical issues they’ll face at a similar phosphate site in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, an area that will fall under their area of operation when they deploy early next year.  

Brig. Gen. John R. Allen, Deputy Commanding General, II Marine Expeditionary Force and Commanding General, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said the experience will prove invaluable when II MEF (Fwd) Marines assist in establishing a similar Iraqi facility.

“This was an opportunity for us to leverage the qualifications and the superior capabilities of American industry to partner with us and help us understand how we can help the Iraqis,” he said.

Gunnery Sgt. Patrick Patton, detachment engineer for 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, said the experience armed him with practical knowledge he knows he’ll use in the future.

“Making this bridge here is going to carry on well into when we’re in theatre,” he said.  “Visiting the phosphate plant today shed a lot of light on what I’m going to be seeing over there, what I should be seeing, so that we can get a baseline for where the Iraqis can begin to work and begin this industry on their own.”

Allen said the facility will provide a much needed boost to the provincial economy, through both the jobs and the fertilizer it will produce.

“This factory, if we can get it on its feet again, will employ young Iraqi males,” he said.   “It will give them a future in a job and in a career that will be meaningful.  It will create a product that will have almost instantaneous value to the Iraqi economy, as much of the Anbar province economy is based on agriculture.”

Civil affairs Marines plan to visit a number of industrial sites before deploying to gain guidance and establish similar working relationships with other U.S. businesses.

“We have a number of other trips like this scheduled, probably to look at the power sector, to look at cement manufacturing, and some other things,” Allen said.  “That will have direct applicability to what we’re going to do when we get into the Anbar Province.”