U.S. Engineers Gaining Iraqi Confidence
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP TIGERLAND, Iraq, Jan. 29, 2005 "It's all about services," said Army Capt. Jessy Yeates, manager of essential services for the 256th Brigade Combat Team. "It's all about getting services to the people."
The captain, assigned to the brigade's 1088th Engineer Battalion, is responsible for improving electrical, water, sewage and medical services to hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the 256th's area of operations west of Baghdad, Iraq.
Yeates and his team are at the heart of Gen. George Casey's counterinsurgency strategy. The general, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, says it is impossible to win a counterinsurgency campaign with military force alone. All aspects of national will -- economic, political, military and communications -- must work in concert to defeat insurgents.
The 1088th is responsible for more than $11 million in humanitarian aid projects throughout the area. The projects directly benefit Iraqis where they live. "Our biggest project is a nine-kilometer pipeline that will bring clean drinking water to Suba al Bor," Yeates said.
The former regime built the village to house about 25,000 veterans of the Iran- Iraq War. It now has a population of three times that amount. "Because of the demand, they have no water pressure in places where pipes run," Yeates said. "There are other homes with no distribution system or water."
The project brings water from a canal. The pipeline starts at 18 inches in diameter and changes down to 12 inches. "For whatever reason, they don't use water towers here," Yeates said. "So narrowing the pipe and putting in a pumping station will increase the water pressure to the population."
Local Iraqis did the work on the line. Iraqi engineers at Baghdad University did the quality control and served as consultants for the project. All that needs to happen is for generators to fire up, and clean water will start flowing in Suba al Bor.
And it may change some attitudes. "They don't like us there," Yeates said. "They see us as occupiers. But maybe they will see these projects as a benefit and we can get them to work with us.
"We won't get them to love us, but we will gain their confidence," he said.
The insurgents see these projects as threats. Yeates said a local power station was finally starting to approach generating capacity. The insurgents blew up the gas pipeline supplying the plant.
In other areas, infrastructure is poor or non-existent. In Abu Jadhial, the unit is investing in installing new substations and transmission lines. They are also hooking up houses to lines correctly. In some cases, inhabitants had tapped in to the power lines using concertina wire. "All of that is going to be dependent on getting the national electrical grid on line," Yeates said.
Most of the money being spent is in water projects. He estimates that by the end of February all people in the region, with very few exceptions, should have clean drinking water. Another project is putting a four-kilometer long pipeline in to the village of Hor al Bash.
The unit is also working on refurbishing schools. There are 17 schools in Suba al Bor. Sixteen of those need major work, and the unit is contracting for the work.
The unit built an addition on the local medical clinic in Suba al Bor, too. "When we first got there, you couldn't find a doctor or a patient," Yeates said. "We invested $200,000 in equipment, funded the addition, got a hold of two ambulances and a pick-up truck for them. The place is jumping. There is already talk of building a pediatric portion for the clinic.
"We will drive on," he said.