Soldiers Give Food to Iraqis Affected by Insurgents
By Sgt. Dan Purcell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 1, 2004 As militants fueled an uprising in southern Iraq, fighting spilled over into places like Sadr City and adjoining areas, setting back ongoing efforts to improve the lives of Iraqis.
Now with a tentative truce in place, civil affairs soldiers are taking the initiative to repair the damage and secure the peace. Teams attached to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, have begun the healing process by providing humanitarian rations to the people most affected in areas such as the Kamilaya neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad.
According to Maj. Joel Hagy, Strike Team leader, 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, food drops are an integral part of what he called consequence management.
"Whenever you have consequences in a tactical operation, you need to be able to manage the consequences as best you can," Hagy said. "The consequences can be as minimal as destruction of private property to, in the worst-case scenario, death or injury to a civilian."
Any tactical operation has three phases of consequence management to consider, he said.
"First, there is the planning phase," he explained. "Then there is the operation itself, when you might run into something (that) wasn't foreseen during the initial planning. Lastly, there is the post phase, when there is actual damage to something and somebody gets compensated."
On Aug. 5, area businesses, public projects and government buildings were closed or damaged, which forced civilians to stay home and incur a temporary loss of income.
"After this latest insurrection, we have started to rebuild the (district council) hall and have been able to make several humanitarian food drops," Hagy said.
"Many people in Iraq are unsure of what we are doing here," said Sgt. 1st Class Felipe Azua, the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion's noncommissioned officer in charge. "So they go by what other people say. When they see us out there repairing their electric stations, sewer systems, or passing out food, they can actually see for themselves that we are here to help, and that has a huge impact. The food drops that we do are a good example of how we get the word out."
Staff Sgt. Heidi Mendez attributed the humanitarian mission's success to the help the unit received from the supporting units and a couple of local leaders who helped to organize the people and pass out the food.
"When the food drops go well, you really feel great, because you know a lot of families are getting fed," Mendez said. "Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to do more of these food drops and organize them in the same way."
(Army Sgt. Dan Purcell is assigned to the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)