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U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Cissell
Sailor Helps Improve Iraq
Multi-National Force - Iraq
BAGHDAD, Aug. 9, 2006 — “We’re making a difference, one project at a time,” says a Navy man who is finishing a six-month tour deployed to one of Iraq’s most dangerous areas. “I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish as we worked side-by-side with some truly remarkable and courageous Iraqi people.”

Chief Petty Officer Brian Cissell was responsible for overseeing 55 projects in an area in south Baghdad province, referred to by many as the “Triangle of Death.” He was involved in four separate improvised explosive device detonations. He earned an Army Combat Action Badge for one of those engagements and has been nominated for a Navy Combat Action Ribbon for a firefight involving insurgents.

He said despite the constant insurgent threat there, he made it a point to get out and visit community leaders and residents on almost a daily basis in places such as Mahmudiyah, Yusufiyah, and Lutifiyah.

Cissell opened a Gulf Region Division office at Mahmudiyah Forward Operating Base in March.

“The conditions were spartan, but the opportunity to positively impact the lives of families in nearby neighborhoods was awesome,” he said.

Cissell, working with five Iraqi engineers, helped upgrade hospitals, schools, police stations, and council buildings, but said his top priority was getting water and sewer plants functioning and electrical distribution networks back on line.

Of those projects, he singled out the Yusufiyah Water Treatment Plant as his favorite. That $211,800 Commander’s Emergency Response Program-funded project upgraded a dilapidated plant constructed in 1972 and was completed in June. The components of the water treatment plant were all rebuilt, including the pumps, the generator, the treatment tanks, the chemical injection system, and the electrical control system. The plant is now capable of producing 1,000 cubic meters of fresh, potable water per hour, enough to meet the needs of 100,000 residents in that area.

 “This wasn’t a quick-fix project … it addressed the long-term needs of the community,” Cissell said.

“Unfortunately, militias and anti-Iraqi forces continue to target basic essential services throughout that area as they try to discourage residents and force them to leave,” he added. “Those local families look to us for assistance and I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help. We’re getting them more electrical power each day, sewage is being pumped out of the streets, we’ve completed a couple of new schools, a number of water treatment plants, and the drainage canals have been cleaned out.

“Millions of dollars have been invested in those neglected towns and the people appreciate the effort. And it’s not just

Chief Petty Officer Brian Cissell gives an Iraqi boy some candy. Cissell volunteered for duty in Iraq because he wanted to help improve the lives of the Iraqi people.  Courtesy photo

the big-ticket items where we’ve been able to reach out.”

He recalled one tiny area where insurgents had blown up some water mains.

“The townspeople said they had no equipment to repair them. We purchased some shovels and pipe and the people went to work on their own. Several days later, fresh water was again reaching their homes. I talk to community leaders almost every day. They call me on my cell phone when problems occur. I have mixed feelings about leaving here. It’s hard to walk away because we still have unfinished business,” he said.

Cissell said he learned that “leadership has no boundaries. We were successful because of daily interaction among a variety of U.S. and Iraqi personnel. Communication was the key.

“I’m convinced that now that the government is up and running and the local mayors and councils have a voice in where the reconstruction dollars are being invested, this process will help legitimize the government. Once that happens the Iraqis will start trusting the system and things will get better.”

Cissell and his wife Tammy have four children and reside in Bremerton, Wash. He is assigned to the USS Abraham Lincoln and his wife is also in the Navy.

“I volunteered for Iraq because I wanted to see it on the front line; I wanted to interact with the people here,” he said. “I wanted to help improve their lives. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offered me an opportunity to make that happen. As I return to the aircraft carrier, I’ll be telling my shipmates about duty here ... that we all worked hard to ensure that democracy in Iraq ‘shall not perish’ ... those last three words is our ship’s motto and are words spoken by Abraham Lincoln himself.”
Last Updated:
08/09/2006, Eastern Standard Time
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