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Soldiers Help Iraqi Media Spread Word on Neighborhood Improvements

By Army Sgt. Dustin Roberts
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, May 12, 2009 – A partnership among the local government, Iraqi security forces and the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, has given citizens of northwestern Baghdad’s Hurriyah neighborhood an improved community.

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Sheik Maqmoud al-Falahi, right, a tribal leader in northwestern Baghdad, speaks to attendees of the “Hurriyah Walkthrough” ceremony in the Kadamiyah district of northwestern Baghdad, May 11, 2009. After the ceremony, civic leaders and members of the Iraqi media walked through a thriving market street in Hurriyah to see security and economic gains in the neighborhood. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dustin Roberts
  

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In a walk-through of a busy market street yesterday, Iraqi television reporters met with civic, tribal and security leaders, as well as 2nd HBCT leaders, to see a cleaner environment and thriving shops.

“We’re trying to show the people of Hurriyah, the people who live outside of Hurriyah and throughout Baghdad, the security, civic and essential service improvements in Hurriyah,” Army Capt. Nathan Williams, commander of the U.S. battalion’s Company A, said. “There is a lot of misconceptions out there that security is bad and the area hasn’t been prospering recently.”

Many Iraqis who moved away from the neighborhood from 2003 through 2006, when al-Qaida in Iraq and Iranian-backed enemy fighters created an unstable security environment have not had the chance to see that the neighborhood has undergone a continuing makeover, Williams said.

“We’re trying to spread the word that things have improved so people can come back to Hurriyah,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to get the word out to the public.”

Because the word came from the neighborhood’s leaders and the local media, it is likely the people of Iraq will find Hurriyah’s improvements more credible, he added.

“Just like in our country, the message doesn’t always get out. It has some sort of shaded lens on it if it comes from us,” said Army Lt Col. John Vermeesch, commander of the “Vanguard” Battalion. “If it comes from their own people, then it’s more believable and genuine.”

Vermeesch said Hurriyah has turned around because the partnership between the Iraqi and U.S. soldiers means more than manning checkpoints.

“The 1st Battalion, 22nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army, is an incredibly effective and efficient unit, and they have done great things in partnership with Company A,” he said. “They conduct continuous combined area reconnaissance [and] combined raids against known targets, and they patrol the streets together every day.”

Williams added that the residents of Hurriyah also see street sweepers cleaning up trash, and much of the sewage from the past has been removed.

The Vanguard Battalion works with the local public works department to improve essential services.

“Essential services are good, but they need to get better -- specifically sewage [in one of the areas],” Vermeesch said. “That is something we are working … to try and improve.”

Thanks to the Iraqi media bringing out the views of local residents, Vermeesch said, the people of Baghdad will have a better idea of the situation in Hurriyah.

“Today’s event met our intent,” he said, “and I believe that the right message got out to the people of Iraq that Hurriyah is a safe and stable city. I think the right message got out to Baghdad.”

(Army Sgt. Dustin Roberts serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.)

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Multinational Corps Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageCivic, tribal and security leaders of northwestern Baghdad and members of the Iraqi media walk down a market street in northwestern Baghdad’s Hurriyah neighborhood, May 11, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dustin Roberts  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageIraqi soldiers and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers serving with the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, walk down a busy market street with civic, tribal and security leaders and members of the Iraqi media in northwestern Baghdad’s Hurriyah neighborhood, May 11, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dustin Roberts  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Col. Joseph Martin hands out pencils to Iraqi children in the Hurriyah neighborhood of northwestern Baghdad May 11, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dustin Roberts  
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