On the Ground: U.S. Forces Perform Dual Role in Securing, Developing Iraq
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 13, 2009 U.S. forces in Iraq increasingly are working on civil affairs projects to develop the country, while continuing to provide security so that progress can happen throughout, military officials report.
U.S. Army Capt. Eric Currence, commander of the 641st Civil Affairs Team, shakes hands with Jameel Bashar, the village sheikh's brother, after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new water filtration facility in Kalamat Village March 9, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Soldiers assigned to the Army’s 641st Civil Affairs Team helped bring a water filtration system to a village near Badra.
"This is just another example of Iraqis helping Iraqis with the coalition's help," Capt. Eric Currence, commander of the 641st CAT, said of the team’s help in delivering a water filtration system in Kalamat, a village near Badra.
Kalamat residents used to travel five miles on dirt roads to Badra to fill plastic containers with drinking water. Thanks to an Iraqi commander’s emergency response program water filtration project, they now have clean drinking water at the flick of a switch, right in the heart of their village.
"We want to thank coalition forces and the Iraqi company that provided the filtration system," said Jameel Bashar, a Kalamat resident. "Now we can drink really good, clean drinking water."
The project began when a coalition civil affairs team visited the village and asked the sheikh how they could help. That team was replaced by Civil Affairs Team 641, which continued the effort.
"This village needed a lot of help, and the sheikh explained the difficulties of getting drinking water to the village, especially when it rains in the winter, which sometimes washes out the road," Currence said.
To commemorate the completion of the $59,000 project, Currence and Bashar, the sheikh's brother and representative for the village, cut the ribbon on the facility March 9.
On the same day, soldiers with the 7th Cavalry Regiment’s 2nd Battalion, accompanied Iraqi soldiers as they traveled from house to house in a neighborhood in Maysan province, on Iraq’s southeastern border distribute essential supplies to residents in need.
The soldiers provided blankets, canned food and other necessities during the humanitarian aid drop in Hay al Hussein in the city of al Amarah.
Along with food and bedding, Iraqi children were given comic books featuring their hometown heroes, the Iraqi security forces.
"If we can give them even just a blanket, they will be very grateful," said Iraqi Lt. Malik Theab.
One of the residents that received items from the coalition forces, a mother of three children, explained the mattress and blankets would be a big help because her sons currently sleep on the floor.
The mission helped Maysan residents with necessities they can't afford. It also provided Iraqi soldiers experience in planning, coordinating and carrying out civil-military operations for future goodwill missions.
While soldiers are directly involved in humanitarian and development missions in some parts of the country, in others, they are focused on security so that Iraq can grow its economy.
That is the case in Wasit province where Iraq’s oil minister and officials with Chinese National Petroleum Company on March 11 cut the ribbon at the Ahdeb oil field southwest of Forward Operating Base Delta.
"This project will provide a number of jobs and opportunities for investment which will provide the province with electricity and power to operate the power station in Zurbadiyah and to help to contribute to the development and prosperity of this province," said Oil Minister Hussein Al-Shahristani.
The Chinese company signed an agreement with Iraq's government in 1996, but it was postponed due to U.N. sanctions and then Operation Iraqi Freedom. A new deal was brokered in November between the company and Baghdad’s new government.
"We look at this opportunity as the start of rebuilding the prosperity of Wasit," provincial Governor Abd al-Latif Hamad Tarfah said. "This is the first investment project in Wasit and we hope it will last a long time."
The company will use the same air and logistics help as coalition forces at FOB Delta. Al-Waha Petroleum Company coordinated with U.S. forces to use the airfield on FOB Delta, as well.
U.S. Army Col. Richard Francey, commander of 41st Fires Brigade and FOB Delta, said the security in Wasit province is ready for other companies to bring in their business, as well.
"Being a partner with the local Iraqi security forces, we will help them if they have any challenges and be an enabling force in the superb Iraqi security force efforts in providing continued security to the province," Francey said.
"The security is set for many others to come here. The Chinese just happen to be the first," he added. "This is a good thing in the long run for the province and the Iraqi people."
Digging at the Ahdeb oil field is set to start in about a month, with production of oil estimated to reach 110,000 barrels per day, company officials said.
(From Multinational Corps Iraq and Central Command news releases. Army 2nd Lt. Sean Frankum, of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson, of the 41st Fires Brigade, contributed to this report.)