GARMA, Iraq --
Residents here celebrated a success for their livelihoods, with the grand reopening of a marketplace central to the city’s economy, Dec. 1.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, and other Coalition Forces joined Garma citizens and local dignitaries in the celebration of the market reopening, marking progress toward economic growth for the community.
“It’s a sign of progress and hope for a new tomorrow,” said Capt. Quintin D. Jones, commanding officer with Company L. “The mayor and I wanted to make an immediate impact in the area by making goods readily available, helping improve commerce. Now, the market can work as a crossroad for Garma to tie back into other cities.”
Sheik Mishen, a prominent tribal leader in the area, was the honorary speaker at the ceremony. He thanked Jones and other servicemembers for their dedicated work to helping the community.
The “Lollipop Market,” named after it took the shape of what resembles a lollipop during reconstruction, was once a battleground between insurgents and Coalition Forces, and had suffered collateral damage during ground fighting.
“Six or seven months ago there were still gun battles being fought here,” said Jones. “This shows how far we’ve come here.”
The market was proposed as an essential investment for the city. In agreement, an embedded provincial reconstruction team, staffed by Defense and State Department officials, financially supported the reconstruction to promote growth in the community through increased revenue.
Once the project had been approved, local contractors were awarded contracts for reconstruction.
Workers first repaired the roads filling in craters from improvised explosive device detonations. Street curbs were repaired, painted and a center roadway circle was added. Doors were replaced and new awnings were hung on the individual shop spaces. Workers removed dirt and rubble from the area. The planting of some grass and trees for the market were also managed into the budget.
An added benefit was revealed to the public during the ceremony. The main route leading into and out of the market, which is currently only used for military traffic, will be opened to public traffic as the main avenue of travel from north to south through the city. The opening of the road will remove much of the overhead costs associated with shipping goods for local merchants.
The reconstruction of the market was coordinated through the efforts over six weeks. Though there were few shops opened for business the day of the ceremony, all were optimistic, believing merchants would soon occupy the majority of the shops. Ending the ceremony, both locals and Provincial Security Forces joined in a circle and danced to the beat of a solo drum as they celebrated the event.