Iraqis Claims addressed by 4th CAG Marines

20 Dec 2006 | Cpl. Virginia K. Lawrence

AR RAMADI, Iraq – Call it one-stop shopping for Iraqi and Coalition Forces.  A detachment of civil affairs Marines, who call themselves “The Forgotten Four,” are keeping Marines and soldiers connected to the Iraqis in Al Anbar Province.

Marines with Detachment 4, 4th Civil Affairs Group carry out missions in the Ramadi area, including working at the Provincial Civil Military Operations Center in Ramadi, Iraq, where one major operation is to pay out claims to Iraqis.

“Our biggest operation is opening up the entry control point so that we can pay out claims for local nationals who have claims for damaged property,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew A. Knight, PCMOC Chief, 4th CAG.

There is one large team that runs the PCMOC, and a second smaller group that runs security at the Government Support Team, located on Camp Blue Diamond, Ramadi, Iraq, Knight said.

When Iraqis are injured or their property is damaged due to perceived Coalition Forces actions, such as the destruction of a house or a car, the people usually hire an attorney.   These attorneys are familiar with the process 4th CAG Marines use to determine whether the Iraqi’s claim is valid.

Marines who work the ECP at the PCMOC search the Iraqis before they enter. They do everything from visually inspecting Iraqis to checking for weapons on them.

“When they walk in I visually inspect them,” said Lance Cpl. John F. Snow, a team assistant, 4th CAG.  “If I see something unusual, I have them lift the item of clothing blocking it and visually inspect.

“We haven’t had attempts to bring weapons in, but if we did, we would recognize it by the shape,” Snow said.  “I’m looking for things to be wrong, like weapons or shape of weapons.”

Marines from the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Company B, provide perimeter security while the 4th CAG Marines provide internal security, Knight explained.

After searching the Iraqis, Marines guide them into the waiting area where they wait to be seen, Knight added. It’s the responsibility of the Marines to schedule appointments for the individual Iraqi attorneys to bring their clients in.

The scheduling process varies from person to person, said Cpl Marissa C. Ferkovich, 4th CAG team assistant.

When it is time for the Iraqi to be seen for a claim, they have already seen the Coalition scheduler to get an appointment, Ferkovich said. 

Iraqis can have someone else, such as a local attorney, do this for them but in order to have their claim reviewed, the Iraqi with the claim must actually be here on their appointed date and time, Knight explained.

“They are scheduled for months in advance and there are no walk-ins,” Ferkovich said.

On their given appointment, Iraqis and their attorney meet with an Army attorney from1st Brigade Combat Team, Judge Advocate General, who makes the trip to the PCMOC from Camp Ramadi.

“The Army attorney listens to the case and determines whether or not they have a valid case and if the damage was caused by the Coalition Forces actions,” Knight said.

“A lot of cases are pending and we reschedule them because we need more paperwork or more evidence,” Ferkovich explained.  “Sometimes they’re denied on the spot, it’s all situational.”

It is up to the Coalition attorney to decide the merits of a claim, and it is often the records of significant Coalition Forces events that can provide the needed proof. Likewise, when there is no log record of Coalition Forces’ significant events for a particular claimant’s case, it may result in non-payment of the claim, Knight said.

Sometimes additional evidence is required for a cases’ validity.

Another way for someone to make a case for a valid claim is to provide photographic evidence for damages that are consistent with Coalition Force actions. Other times, a claimant will bring a chit, which is a piece of paper signed by a Coalition Force member specifically given to that claimant for documenting damages, Knight explained.

As far as payment for valid claims, a Marine disburser makes payments as directed by the Coalition attorney who has reviewed their case, Knight said.

And in the event the JAG finds a claim to be valid, they pay out amounts on what the damage is. As far as specific amounts for payment, they are done on the monetary value, paid out in Iraqi dinar, to compensate for the damages to physical property, or whatever else damage may have been done, Knight said. 

“In talking to the CF attorney’s, anecdotal evidence would suggest that about 50 percent of our potential claimants will not be compensated,” Knight said.   He added this can be due to a number of factors, but usually, it is catastrophic damages in an area with no correlating Coalition Force significant event occurrences.

On a normal day, Iraqi lawyers will ask Ferkovich to schedule more claims than they came in for, she explained.  Sometimes the Iraqi person themselves can schedule claims without a lawyer. Another situation that turns up is when lawyers are friendly with each other, so if one lawyer cannot make a case, another lawyer will take his claims for him.

“Normally, a person will come and in about a four-to-five hour period they’ll be seen by an attorney and their claim will be denied or approved depending on the case,” Knight said.  “I think it’s important that people understand what the PCMOC does, and I think what a lot of people really don’t get is that this PCMOC really is a clearing house for all of the Coalition Forces in Ramadi.”

The Army Corps of Engineers moves through here; the Department of State move through here, Knight explained.  The 4th CAG Marines also have Army Civil Affairs come through, and of course the Marine Corps Civil Affairs.

“Our function is to support all of the military within Ramadi by acting as a bridge between the local government here by making direct liaison with the Al Anbar government, to include the Provincial Governor and his associated Director Generals, and Coalition Forces that are operating anywhere in Al Anbar, but especially in Ramadi,” Knight said.

This is done by providing a location for Coalition Forces to meet with these various officials at the PCMOC, by trying to coordinate various projects throughout the province, Knight explained. This avoids duplication of efforts on the parts of all the various entities operating here.

As far as Knight’s Marines go, he believes the experience they are gaining through working out of the PCMOC cannot be matched anywhere in the Marine Corps.

“They meet with high-ranking civilian and military officials and have the opportunity to interact with persons that their rank might normally preclude them from meeting with,” Knight said.  “In running the claims center, the Marines have the opportunity to meet the Iraqi people and hopefully put a positive and human face on the CF efforts in Al Anbar Province.”