By Staff Sgt. Brent Williams, USA
WASHINGTON, July 27, 2006 – Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team are working to set conditions for the Iraqi government to take charge of essential services and public works within Baghdad. The brigade's Special Troops Battalion has taken the lead in helping the Iraqi government maintain and improve water, sewer, electric and sanitation services in southwestern Baghdad, Army Lieutenant Colonel Joe Gandara, the unit's commander, said.
The battalion's Infrastructure Coordination Element, a group of engineers, officers and soldiers dedicated to helping Iraqis take the lead in building a better Baghdad, work with local leaders to improve living conditions for Iraqi citizens. "The brigade's mission is to create an environment that enables the Iraqi government to establish rule of law in Baghdad and transition to Iraqi control," Army Capt. Ryan Parks, the battalion's sewer and water projects manager, said.
"By developing and managing infrastructure projects, the ICE is helping create that environment," he explained. "If the citizens of Baghdad do not have to worry about necessities, such as potable water and electricity, they can focus more on establishing governance and order to Iraq." The ICE cell has managed 94 essential service projects worth more than $48 million. The projects also provide both short- and long-term employment for Iraqis.
"There are countless neighborhoods and citizens around Baghdad that are benefiting from new infrastructure projects and from rehabilitation projects," Parks said. As the Iraqi government assumes more responsibility for infrastructure, the role of civil military operations is changing. The Special Troops Battalion is working with local municipal departments to make these organizations more effective, Army Maj. Ray Proske, the battalion's executive officer, said. A coordination cell works with local leaders to identify and service the particular needs of their communities.
The success of the battalion in improving the lifestyle of the Iraqi people cannot be gauged in dollars or in projects alone, Gandara said. The real success is in developing a relationship between the city government and local townships within the city to identify and meet the needs of the people.
Teaching civics and the benefits of a representative government to local government officials is a challenge, he said. The unit is teaching local-level Iraqi leaders how to govern "within the parameters of a normal society," Gandara said, "so that we know that we have built something that will stand -- that I know will be a success within the traditions and culture of the Arab peoples."
(Army Staff Sgt. Brent Williams is assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, public affairs office.)