On the Ground: U.S. Forces Add Farm Supplies to Iraqi Aid Missions
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 13, 2009 As the planting season gets under way in Iraq, U.S. forces there are adding agriculture supplies to regular humanitarian outreach efforts they conduct with Iraqi forces.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Jones Jr. hands a meal to a girl in Samarra, Iraq, March 31, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Ian M. Terry
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Task Force Bucca civil affairs team presented agricultural equipment April 11 to members of the Umm Qasr and Safwan farmers associations and town councils at Camp Bucca.
The forces presented six water trucks and eight tractors to Majid Talib Muzam, Umm Qasr Town Council president, and Munadhel Shanin Manahe, Safwan Town Council president, who accepted them on the towns' behalf. The project is part of a $2.34 million investment coalition forces made to assist the community's economy, which also included recent renovations to the Safwan Agricultural Center and the donation of seeds, generators, greenhouse kits and plastic sheathing.
Agriculture is Iraq's largest employer, and is the second-largest contributor to the country’s economy, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. As such, agricultural aid is “an effective engine for promoting stability through private sector development, poverty reduction and food security," said Army Col. David P. Glaser, commander of the 42nd Military Police Brigade and Task Force Bucca.
"For a long period, the agricultural sector has suffered the challenges of crop production being threatened by the shortage and saltiness of water and old agricultural machines,” Majid said. “The borders need exceptional care and support and security protection to enable them to stand on their own again. We are celebrating in this occasion to thank all the hands who participated for their generous support."
Safwan and Umm Qasr each received three water trucks and four tractors. Each truck holds 4,000 gallons of water and will be used to distribute water to local farms to irrigate crops and strengthen the town's farming industry, official said.
The project will promote the legitimacy of the Iraqi government by working with coalition forces to provide a vital service to local communities, said Army Sgt. 1st Class John M. Miller of the 42nd Military Police Brigade, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Task Force Bucca civil affairs Team. The local economy will benefit from long-term jobs, business center development, agriculture initiatives and civic clean-up activities, he said.
"The three water trucks and four tractors each town will receive will contribute to the continued revival of agriculture that is critical to the sustained stability and security in Safwan and Umm Qasr," Glaser said.
Camp Bucca is a forward operating base along the Kuwaiti border near the port city of Umm Qasr, Iraq's southernmost city.
In other humanitarian missions, Iraqi soldiers, supported by Military Transition Team 336, delivered toys, school supplies, backpacks, a freezer and a message to the girls, ages 6 to 12, at Al Bestor School in Hariwab on April 2.
The message included lessons on looking both ways before crossing a street, time management and organization skills. These messages are the same ones American children receive, but Iraqi Maj. Abudil Hussein Kareem, a brigade commander, said it’s important for Iraqi children to heed these guidelines as well.
"We went to the school because we cannot talk to all the adults, because they are past the phase of learning," he said. "We went to the school because the children work and build the future. We know they respond, because they are children and they are going to follow what we say. They will follow us."
"This was geared to educate the children of the dangers of running out in the road when convoys are present," Army Maj. Jon K. Thiessen, MiTT 336 operations officer, said. "Our vehicles are much heavier than normal road traffic and are unable to swerve rapidly. Anything we can do to lessen the risk of children getting into the roadway is a noble endeavor."
The Iraqi army donated the freezer to the teachers and the school supplies and toys -- stuffed bears and soccer balls -- were donated by U.S. citizens and aid groups and given to children.
"The Iraqis are trying to do so much with so little, and we are just trying to assist," Army Maj. Thomas Acklen, MiTT 336 executive officer, said. "The children are the next generation of Iraq. They are the ones that will make Iraq for Iraqis. This occasion was planned to help boost relationships between the youth of Iraq and their security forces."
Kareem said missions like this are important because they demonstrate to the Iraqi people that the army is not to be feared now as it was under Saddam Hussein's rule.
"I think when we visited the school today we showed them something - we showed the students we are friendly and we want to help them and we want to help their country," he said. "It helps the relationship between the army, the Iraqi government and the students. The students will grow up one day and know the army helped their country, their people and their future."
The American forces saw, firsthand, the impact of the aid mission.
"Any questions on how this operation was going and its value were answered by the smile of a little girl holding up a soccer ball,” Acklen said. “If we can make a positive change in one child, then our job here is successful."
U.S. forces also held a humanitarian operation in northern Iraq’s Baraia neighborhood near Samarra on March 31, providing basic necessities and plastic sheeting to help farmers.
Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, delivered several cases of Halal meals to families in the neighborhood.
"Baraia is an extremely impoverished area of Samarra, and local residents are not used to receiving humanitarian aid from government or coalition forces," Army 1st. Lt. Daniel Flynn, platoon leader, said. "The last time most of these folks saw people in uniform, they were kicking down doors and arresting people."
The local residents appeared cautious at first, but quickly warmed up to the soldiers when it became apparent they were there to help.
In addition to food and water, U.S. and Iraqi forces delivered several large rolls of plastic to help with cultivating crops. "It is difficult to grow here sometimes," said Abdul Hassani, a local farmer. "This will help us very much. We are very grateful."
The Baraia community is home to two small shops, a makeshift soccer field and several acres of farmland. Residents do not have access to clean drinking water, and draw their water directly from the Tigris River.
The nearby village of Rega, where a water treatment facility recently opened, has pledged to provide assistance to neighboring villages, including Baraia.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq, Multinational Division North and Multinational Division South news releases.)