Wednesday, December 27, 2006

1-89 CAV hosts town hall meeting to meet Iraqis’ needs

2nd Lt. Zach Alessi-Friedlander
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

BAGHDAD — Soldiers of C Troop “Crazyhorse,” 1st Squadron, 89th Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) hosted a town-hall meeting for the residents of Abu Sheikan and Al Hillan, Iraq at the El Thawan Elementary School on Dec. 22.
As Coalition Forces attempt to promote an indigenous Iraqi-national government, the Soldiers at the platoon and troop-levels of C Troop and 1-89 CAV are working every day to promote more autonomous government at the village levels.
In so doing, 1-89 CAV hopes to provide forums in which community issues – including local governance, water, electricity and security – can be addressed, managed and ultimately integrated into the regional and national levels of the Iraqi government.
Residents arrived at the school early, enabling them to talk with Capt. Adam Sawyer, C Troop’s commander, Lt. Col. Mark Suich, the 1-89 CAV’s commander and other 1-89 staff members.
A half hour after the first residents began arriving at the school, Sawyer and Suich called the meeting into session. Sawyer explained to those gathered along that he intended the meeting as an “open forum” in which to discuss any and all issues on the minds of the villages’ residents.
Moreover, recognizing that trust between local nationals and U.S. Soldiers is the foundation upon which effective civil-military operations are built, Sawyer said that “I will be honest about what we can and cannot affect; certain things are easier for us to influence than others,” a sentiment reiterated by both him and Suich several times throughout the meeting.
Initially, many of the village residents addressed the fact that, although they felt relatively safe in their respective towns, the imperiled security in other areas has prevented them from traveling to places such as Baghdad and Mahmudiyah, Iraq.
One of the first local nationals, Dooud Yunis Hamid al-Jabori, to address Sawyer and Suich said, “This is our home and we are Iraqis – this is our country – and were are limited to our town…we cannot go anywhere else.”
Some of the residents were concerned about the new – mostly Shia’ – Iraqi National Police checkpoint located just outside of these two Sunni villages. Sawyer offered to conduct joint patrols through both villages.
These patrols will illustrate to the residents of the villages that they should not only trust the NPs with ensuring their security but that C Troop will work hard to teach the NPs the tactics and techniques that they need in order to combat the insurgent threats that they might encounter. Moreover, when several members of the audience explained that they would like to have C Troop re-adjust a series of obstacle controlling the flow of vehicular traffic into the villages, both commanders, noticeably impressed that the village appeared to have a plan about how to better secure their own community, agreed.
Seemingly content that C Troop was not only aware of their security concerns but also actively working to improve their safety, the discussion shifted to questions of local government. Abu Shiekan and Al Hillan are home to two tribes: the Jabori and Humaryi. Most of those in attendance appeared to be members of the Jabori tribe, who occupy the southern portions of these two villages. The local Jabori sheik attended the meeting and was formally greeted by both members of the audience as well as Sawyer and Suich.
The sheik sat in the front row and helped to structure the discussion. He organized his thinking by taking notes and managed the discourse by identifying residents with the experience and technical competence to address specific essential-service concerns. Suich then took the opportunity to underscore the importance of having the village nominate residents to attend the regional council meetings to formally articulate their needs to the appropriate Iraqi-government ministries.
“I will personally accompany and secure any member of the village willing to attend the Nahia- or Qada-council meetings,” Suich said. “Right now, the mayor of Mahmudiyah is addressing Sunni concerns over problems with the IA because of complaints made at the last Qada meeting.”
The final part of the meeting concerned essential services.
Karim Shia’ Hamid al-Jabori, a resident of Al Hillan, who works as the school’s security guard, explained that the school currently serves 200 children. However, the villages have many high-school-aged students, who are currently forced to travel over 10 kilometers to reach the nearest available secondary school. He explained that the school needs approximately 3 additional classrooms.
Suich and Sawyer discussed possible solutions with the audience: in the short term, they explained that temporary trailers could be staged in the vicinity of El Thawan; and that, in the long term, once the villages identified a local builder, a contract could be brokered for the construction of a permanent addition. Members of the audience nodded their approval and murmured a chorus of shookruns -“thank you” in Arabic.
Soon thereafter, a local national named Khamees Asmeel Khadar, took the floor and said “we need three transformers so that we can distribute power more effectively to the entire area. I used to work at the Yusufiyah, Iraq Ministry of Power, and I can install these transformers if you can get them for us,” Khadar said.
Despite the seriousness of the meeting’s tone and the complexity of the topics discussed, the meeting ended in good spirits. The sheik in attendance placed his notes to the side and explained that if (1-89 CAV) does even some of the things we have discussed, then you will have the support of the entire village.

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