Humanitarian Efforts Play Big Role in Wolfhound Fury II
By Sgt. Sean Kimmons, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
HEYCHEL AREA, Iraq, Jan. 31, 2005 As Task Force 1-27 Infantry soldiers hunted down suspected terrorists during Operation Wolfhound Fury II, the mission also had a whole different side -- providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to the Iraqi people in this remote area.
Throughout the 72-hour operation, task force soldiers, along with civil affairs and psychological operations teams, improved the welfare of Iraqis in Heychel and its surrounding villages.
This was rare, since many Iraqi people here have not seen any assistance from the multinational forces until this operation began Jan. 21. That is because the area sits on the boundaries of three Army units.
"We've done reconstruction all over our area, but we just recently acquired this area as part of our battle space. We needed to get up here and see what they needed," said Capt. Jeramy Hopkins, civil military operations officer with Task Force 1-27 Infantry.
Wolfhound Fury II helped kick-start the bidding process for projects on three health clinics, two schools, and the graveling of roads in at least four different areas. More than 30 small-term projects for area beautification and analysis on future water and electricity projects also were initiated.
Once everything gets finalized, the Heychel area will receive at least $250,000 to $300,000 in reconstruction projects. Hopkins said he anticipates that these projects will build a better future for the Iraqi people here and eliminate any negative views they may have toward multinational forces.
"I really hope it changes the perceptions of the way we're seen here," he said. "I also hope these projects help the future children. We want them to grow up and think that there is hope for the future, not just because the Americans are here, but that things are getting better in their country."
The process of getting these projects under way was not an easy one. At first, the soldiers struggled to find local contractors, because the muktar, or head sheik, insisted his people didn't need any assistance.
Hopkins and Maj. David Ford, a team leader with Provisional Company A, 385th Civil Affairs Brigade, paid a cordial visit to the muktar, hopeful that in the Arab tradition, he'd be hospitable to peaceful guests.
After politely asking for the muktar's blessings and support on future projects in his village, the soldiers were invited into his conference room to talk about the details.
What started as a planned 15-minute discussion turned into a two-and-a-half- hour meeting with numerous glasses of Chai tea and a traditional Arab meal. "It surprised me that we were able to accomplish so much and get so much cooperation. What struck me was the nature and hospitality of the Arab people," Ford said.
Eventually, the muktar agreed to put out the word to his people about the need for contractors and laborers. "Our persistence is what impressed him, (and he could see) that we're genuinely interested in helping them," Ford said.
Besides beginning infrastructure projects, task force units purchased items locally and distributed them to needy families and mosques. "We purchased all the shoes a store had to sell and turned right around in the same store and gave them all away," said Maj. Mario Diaz, the task force's operations officer. Soldiers also donated more than 1,500 blankets, 75 kerosene heaters and many toys.
(Army Sgt. Sean Kimmons is assigned to the 25th Infantry Division.)