By Pfc. Paul J. Harris, USA
BALAD, Iraq, July 16, 2006 – Civil affairs soldiers are here working to ensure local Iraqis have the strong foundation needed to rebuild and sustain their government long after the coalition leaves Iraq. Army Capt. Philip Zapien, civil affairs team leader for 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Band of Brothers, finds himself wearing many different hats these days. The majority of his civil affairs team has been tasked to help another unit, leaving Zapien with just a couple of soldiers to complete missions.
Though short-staffed, Zapien is determined to see some of the more crucial projects completed before he returns to the U.S. One of the big areas of concern is the quality of roads around Logistical Support Area Anaconda. The roads are riddled with potholes, making them easy targets for insurgents to place improvised explosive devices. Not only is Zapien concerned for the Iraqi and coalition forces' security, but he also believes safer roads will allow more traffic to flow, increasing commerce and help the local economy.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Vuono, commander of 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery, who is on his third deployment to Iraq, hopes to see a system similar to the U.S. interstate network that could help in the fight against roadside bombs. "I don't want to start a project that is only going to be good for two years," Vuono said. "I want a project that is going to be here for five, six, seven years."
The first task is to take away the median in the middle, Vuono said. Reducing vegetation on the side of the road increases visibility of an IED. Roads like those in the states have a significant asphalt base, so it takes more effort to put an explosive device in the road. When Americans get in their cars to go to work, they expect to get from point A to point B safely. The soldiers of 3-29 FA and their civil affairs counterparts are trying to provide Iraqis that same security, Vuono said.
In addition to building up the roads, Zapien is also excited about a dam project on the Tigris River near the village of Bakir. The dam will improve water flow into the water treatment facility in Bakir, reducing the amount of sand that collects in the facility, Zapien said. This will increase the production of fresh water, enabling the facility to serve not only Bakir, but surrounding villages as well. The 3-29th FA will spend about $10 million on reconstruction projects during the unit's year-long deployment in Iraq