By Sgt. 1st Class Robert Timmons, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 14, 2007 - Bullet holes attest to the battleground that was this two-block portion of the Doura neighborhood. Just a few months ago, residents were afraid to step outside, leaving their neighborhood filled with garbage, without power and with most of its shops closed. That was until members of 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, made a concerted effort to weed out insurgents and put the citizens of Doura's east side on the track to success.
"When we first arrived here, there were 10 stores open on the entire street," said Army Lt. Col. Jim Crider, the squadron commander, as he toured the peaceful streets with members of the Iraqi media. "There were several attacks, improvised explosive devices every day, and no one wanted to cooperate.
"Initially, we stayed on the street to protect the people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until we became friends with the people," he said.
On Oct. 27, 138 stores were open, Crider added.
Staying out on the streets and erecting barriers to prevent gunfire from entering the area began to pay off in more ways than one. Citizens began to come back outside and a national police checkpoint was relocated because it was deemed unnecessary to protect that portion of town.
"This is one of the safest places in Doura," said Pvt. David Polasek, a Lawrenceville, Ga., native serving with Troop A, 1-4 Cav., as he watched Iraqis laying new concrete on the street median. "More people are coming out every day because they feel safer."
Once the citizens began to feel more secure, the insurgent threat began to diminish.
"Once we began to trust each other and share information, the insurgents could no longer hide," Crider, a native of Hopkinsville, Ky., said. "At the same time, we began to work on essential services projects such as trash pickup and street lights. Once they saw they had good power and jobs, the area began to look much nicer and the insurgents began to disappear. And things got really good."
Many projects aimed at helping citizens have been completed in the past few months. "We suffered a lack of security and essential services in (this area) until three months ago, when the citizens and local contractors were able to complete 22 projects together," said Dr. Moayaad, who lives in the neighborhood.
Some of the citizens said the area hasn't been as good since before Saddam Hussein left power. "The situation got worse after the fall (of Baghdad) until this moment," said Aalaa Eldien Salim, a butcher whose shop was one of the few that remained open during the tough times the neighborhoods endured. "The security gradually started to return to the area because of the presence of coalition forces in the area. They are rescuing us from the saboteur's elements. The lighting in the area is important for the shops."
Salim said he was able to keep in business because of monetary help. "I had damages due to explosions around my shop," he said. "I received a grant, which helped me to fix the windows, but I still need to buy some stuff for the shop, like a freezer."
The streets were once empty but for a few stores, now they are busy with the activity of a garbage truck making routine rounds to pick up trash, workers placing multicolored bricks down as a new sidewalk, children playing, and people visiting the Doura clinic for their medical needs.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Timmons is assigned to 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Public Affairs Office.)