Sunday, May 06, 2007

Yusufiyah Joint Security Station opens, hosts major projects meeting

By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — In the village of Yusufiyah, Iraq, representatives refuse to stand still and allow the fear of explosions to stop them from discussing issues.
Several members from the Yusufiyah nahia, or local council, met Sunday at the Joint Security Station in Yusufiyah to discuss projects with civil affairs officers from 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, out of Perrine, Fla., and attached to 4-31 Inf.
Many projects that 4-31 have begun in the community are complete or nearing completion – including streetlights for the town, especially the market area, garbage pickup, and irrigation canal cleanup and improvement.
But some of the projects, such as a soccer field in the Ar-Barash-Tamuz neighborhood and a fire station for the village, are momentarily stalled as the citizens try to determine the best places for them. Since the various representatives were together, they began discussing among themselves different ideas and mentioning people who might be willing to sell or donate land for the projects.
Capt. Chris Sanchez, a civil affairs officer with 4-31, has brokered many of the project meetings over the last several months. He said that it was the first time the Yusufiyah locals had talked so animatedly and begun figuring things out for themselves rather than passing ideas through him, a valuable step in getting the Iraqi village to assume control of local governance and planning.
Still, there are areas where American presence is still needed. The main canal through the area comes through the village of Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, northwest of Yusufiyah, and a water gate there is broken, letting too much water through and alarming the locals.
“Currently, the water flow might cause another break. We’re very edgy,” said Al-Assid. “Time is not on our side with this.”
However, with security issues in the space between the villages, communication is nearly impossible without U.S. help. So, Sanchez spoke to the civil operations Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, stationed in Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, to get the damage repaired.
A water pumping station also ran into contract difficulties with the fuel provider, and the water pumps, left from Hussein’s time, are failing. Muhammad Hasehm Al Meheyawi asked for a backup pump of higher quality, which would not be available without American contracting assistance.
The meeting provided a forum for the representatives to get together as U.S. forces provided security. While Yusufiyah is a great deal safer than it was before, like most of Iraq, it is not yet free of violence.
“The meeting went really well,” said Sanchez, a native of Los Angeles. “What made it go so well was all the ministry representatives talking to each other. That’s the intent – we want them to figure things out without us being there. Everyone was open about their projects and issues.”
Abbas Abbas Al-Sakbari, the nahia’s electrical engineer, was visibly excited when Sanchez mentioned that an American electrical engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be visiting to help install streetlights in the market and improve the electrical infrastructure.
“I won’t sleep,” Al-Sakbari said. “I’ll want to stay up all night with him, discussing things we can do with better electricity.”
“I’m glad to see them coming up with their own projects and addressing the needs of their area with the Iraqi government,” said Sanchez.

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