American Forces Press Service
March 4, 2008 - With the security situation here improving every day, Iraqi and coalition forces increasingly are helping displaced families move back into their old neighborhoods. Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division's Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, in cooperation with Iraqi security forces, the local reconciliation committee, and local and civic leaders, recently welcomed more than 100 families to an informational meeting aimed at returning them to their southwestern Baghdad homes.
The soldiers escorted the families to Combat Outpost 803, where they received information about returning to their homes from members of the Aamel Reconciliation Committee. The committee, formed in October, consists of five Shiite and five Sunni members, and despite significant pressure from extremists, has focused on reducing violence between the two sects and setting conditions for improved quality of life.
For the U.S. military company commander in the area, the return is a culmination of a year's worth of hard work.
"To see 300 citizens from Aamel here for this ceremony and to welcome 100 formerly displaced families back to their homes is an event we could not have imagined six months ago" said Army Capt. Sean Lyons, of Burlington, Iowa, the Company A commander.
For one Iraqi, the combination of coalition forces and the agreement to reconcile differences set the neighborhood on the path to success.
"Citizens from each (neighborhood) in Aamel are extremely happy with the peaceful conditions that have occurred because of the reconciliation agreement that Captain Lyons and Attack Company helped us develop," said Dr. Hammed Aziz, the senior Reconciliation Committee member at the event.
Company A's senior enlisted soldier said the security situation improved because of his unit's stance against various criminal elements.
"Our soldiers were under constant contact with the enemy when we arrived in Aamel," said Army 1st. Sgt. Jeffery Griffith, of Silas, Ala. "The pressure we placed on the (Iranian-supported) 'special groups' criminals and the reconciliation agreement have sharply reduced violence in this area."
Helping displaced families return home is a complicated process, because many families do not have deeds to their homes, making their claims difficult to substantiate.
"We feel very comfortable that law-abiding families are moving back into the neighborhoods," Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Sowder, a platoon sergeant from Bedford, Ind., said. "The system we are using with the Iraqi leaders ensures the proper family is moving back into the abandoned homes and that terrorists are not allowed into Aamel to create problems.
"Moving families back into abandoned houses actually improves the overall security conditions in Aamel," he continued. "We look forward to continuing this program."
(From a Multinational Division Baghdad news release.)