By Seaman William Selby, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 14, 2008 - Coalition forces, Iraqi troops, and "Sons of Iraq" security volunteers are working together to rebuild areas south of Arab Jabour, Iraq, a senior military official in Baghdad said this morning. Coalition forces recently completed Operation Marne Thunderbolt, which focused on the disruption of al Qaeda activities in Iraq, Army Colonel Terry R. Ferrell, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, in Multinational Division Center, said in a conference call with online journalists and "bloggers."
"We've focused on moving to places we haven't been before," said Ferrell, who has been in the Arab Jabour region since June.
Iraqi security forces and the Sons of Iraq helped the coalition move further south, he added. "They lead the operations in Marne Thunderbolt," he said. "Their performance is outstanding."
Iraqi security forces and the Sons of Iraq have worked together to clear terrain of improvised explosive devices and weapons caches while providing the coalition with intelligence. "Since June, they have found 267 IEDs and 85 weapons caches just in the Arab Jabour region," Ferrell said. "One battalion found 167 IEDs alone."
Overall, Ferrell said, he's seen improvement and growth from the citizens throughout the operation.
"A lot of business that were closed down are now open," he said. "New businesses are growing, and farmers are getting back into the fields."
Ferrell said he believes the business growth is a result of security improvements brought about by the Sons of Iraq and Iraqi forces.
Now, coalition forces are focusing on getting local governments to connect with the national government, which Ferrell said is beginning to happen.
"Numerous government representatives are helping with the small communities," Ferrell said. "As the area has become more secure as a result of our efforts, the Sons of Iraq and the security forces combined, that is the reason this is now starting to transition.
"Where we are today, people are making great strides," Ferrell said. "We are continuing to make assessment, but there is still a lot of work to be done."