Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 6, 2007 - Adhamiyah, a northeastern district of the Iraqi capital, was once a violent hotspot where residents were afraid to go to the store. However, with the help of concerned citizens and volunteers, Iraqis have once again begun to fill the market streets. "When we first got here and rode around in the evenings, it was like a ghost town," said High Point, N.C. native, Sgt. 1st Class Steven Pizzino, platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. "Now, when we ride around, the streets are full of people, hundreds of people."
Not long ago, there was a security issue concerning local merchants. Local thugs and terrorists were taking advantage of small markets and extorting shop owners, collecting a "fee" for them to keep their businesses open, Pizzino said.
In addition to the extortion, local citizens were afraid to go shopping due to random attacks by terrorists.
The security issue gradually has been improving thanks to a joint effort by the Iraqi army, local Iraqi security volunteers and troopers from 3-7 Cavalry, who have been a constant presence in the streets of Adhamiyah.
The improvement in security is starting the money flow in the neighborhoods, and that is going to give a fresh start to local citizens, Dallas native 1st Lt. Zachary Hoover, executive officer for Troop A, 3-7 Cavalry, said.
It is not just a boost of the economy of Adhamiyah. The picture of people shopping in the streets will give residents a feeling of security, passing that feeling along to others, Hoover said. Contractors are constantly calling, offering their services to see how they can help bring their city back to normal, he added.
"For the first time, in the last couple of weeks, we have people calling to work with us," Hoover said. "Whereas before, we had to find them."
The fact that abandoned houses are being reoccupied by people who moved out of town because of the violence is a sign of life flourishing in Adhamiyah, Pizzino said. Locals are calling family members, friends and old neighbors to invite them to move back in, he added.
Pizzino gives all the credit for the town's success to its people. The locals are helping the Iraqi security forces and volunteers, as well as coalition forces, by pointing out where bad guys are and notifying Iraqi and coalition forces of anything that looks suspicious, he said.
"The people of Adhamiyah are the big plus factor in the whole area getting better," Pizzino said. "We are helping them to help themselves, and it is working.
"If it keeps going the way it's going now, it'll be like it's a totally different city," he said. "Six months from now, there should be no violence, really whatsoever. All the trash will be cleaned up, and the (electrical) power should be better than what it is now."
Troop A has many projects scheduled for Adhamiyah. A contractor is being hired to clean and repair sewer systems throughout the city. A school in the middle of the market area has been identified for repair by a contractor, as well. They are trying to expand the market zone and place more trash bins in strategic points throughout the commercial area.
(Army Spc. Angel D. Martinez is assigned to 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)