Soldiers Rebuilding Sadr City, One Day at a Time
By Capt. Michael Martinez, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 8, 2004 Every day since Muqtada al-Sadr's militia turned in its weapons in October, hostile activity has decreased in Sadr City, allowing Task Force Lancer soldiers to help rebuild the city.
Staff Sgt. Chad Sandoe hands out frozen chickens during a
recent visit into Sadr City. With the recent decrease in insurgent activity in
Sadr City, it has been easier for soldiers to provide humanitarian aid to the
Iraqi citizens. Photo by Capt. Michael Martinez, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Day in and day out, Task Force Lancer has been giving out sheep, frozen chickens and humanitarian-aid bags; protecting kerosene and propane stations; and escorting trucks to remove pools of sewage from the streets.
Since electricity still is a countrywide issue in the process of being remedied, the people of Sadr City rely heavily on kerosene and propane for heating and cooking.
"The station we were providing security for has only two hoses to refill kerosene tanks, and each person on average brings three to five tanks to be filled," said Sgt. 1st Class Reginald Butler, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. "Every day, approximately 500 to 700 people wait in line -- and some wait all day and night -- just to refill their tanks. But overall, they are happy to see us, because they know that by us being here, they will get a fair price instead of paying the outrageous prices the vendors set." While the government rate for kerosene is five dinars per liter, some vendors have been selling kerosene for as much as 300 dinars per liter.
Another issue for Sadr City is the ever-present sewage that covers the streets. The smell is a constant discomfort, but in some areas it is unbearable. There is a plan to rebuild the main sewage line that runs through the city, but in the meantime Task Force Lancer is providing temporary relief with sewage trunks.
"The neighborhood we are in is one of my model communities, so when I receive sewage assets, I like to employ them here," said Capt. Douglas Chapman, Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment. "It shows them that we understand their problems and are trying to apply a short-term solution to a long-term problem."
Yet, the mission that has made the most immediate impact has been the sheep, chickens and humanitarian-aid bags that were given to the Iraqi civilians. They can be used readily and bring immediate relief, said Staff Sgt. Chad Sandoe, 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion.
"They are very well-received," Sandoe said. "We have no problems with giving them out, because we get large crowds when we arrive. Soldiers also get into it by passing out candy, toys and school supplies they receive from donations back home to the kids.
"The big thing about it is that since hostilities have subsided, we are trying to give something that makes an immediate impact on the people," he continued. "The major projects we are undertaking are not as visible and take time. It truly does make an impact, especially with the children, who say such statements (as) 'America very good' or chant 'good good mister.'"
It is a slow process. The task of rebuilding Sadr City is a great one, and Task Force Lancer soldiers are getting it done, one day at a time.
(Army Capt. Michael Martinez is the Task Force Lancer public affairs officer.)