By Army Sgt. Michael Connors
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 15, 2008 - Multinational Division Center kicked off the main phase of its first major operation devoted primarily to capacity building -- expanding governance, economics and infrastructure -- today in communities south of Baghdad in Iraq's Baghdad province. Operation Marne Piledriver is taking place in the area of operations of 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
While the focus of the operation is on capacity building, Iraqi security forces simultaneously will target remaining insurgent pockets with the help of coalition forces, officials said.
Patrol Base Yates, which will house Iraqi and coalition forces, is under construction as a base of operations to bring the fight to the insurgent holdouts. It is named in honor of Army Cpl. Nyle Yates III, who died in combat in Beiji, Iraq, in 2006 while serving in the 101st Airborne Division's Company B, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
"Marne Piledriver will not only display Iraqi security forces-led operations, but also the establishment of a joint security station at Yusifiyah, the development of Iraqi-run radio stations, the injection of funding by the government of Iraq to refurbish two major water treatment plants, and the infusion of funds and expertise into the poultry and agricultural industries," said Army Col. Dominic J. Caraccilo, commander of 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
Providing training to Iraqi government officials in the area is another key component of the operation. They will learn how to navigate a democratic, free-market economy after decades of a state-run system under Saddam Hussein. The U.S. Agency for International Development is providing the training.
Army Maj. T.J. Johnson, one of the main Multinational Division Center planners of Marne Piledriver, emphasized the synergy created from the U.S. military and USAID working together.
"It's a great way of illustrating how our government and our military have to work hand in hand," he said. "We have to identify what's important together so that we can go ahead and find a way forward."
Governance, however, will go beyond the classroom during Marne Piledriver. Local Iraqi government officials will lead the establishment of a major water pipeline into Mahmudiyah, which has seen a shortage in potable water, Johnson said. The contract will be put out to bid in the Iraqi economy, with local leaders overseeing the process and construction.
"If you can bring fresh water into Mahmudiyah -- potable water -- you eliminate sanitation problems," Johnson said. "That would be a huge win for the government of Iraq, because then everybody in Mahmudiyah is going to know, 'Hey, the government made this thing happen.'"
Another major project is the revitalization of the poultry industry. Poultry farms in the area will receive 35,000 eggs. The chickens will be raised and processed for consumption. It is estimated that poultry industry revitalization alone will create 1,000 jobs, Johnson said.
Marne Piledriver is a comprehensive operation expected to span several months, officials said. Other improvements include improving the Yusifiyah market, renovating fish farms, and erecting cell phone towers and billboards.
When all is said and done, Johnson said, he hopes this operation will serve as a blueprint for what's possible in Iraq moving forward.
"This is really a test bed for how successful capacity-building operations can be," he said. "After spending a lot of the tour focused on lethal operations, the conditions are such that we can really begin to say, 'OK what do the people need that we can impact in a real positive manner?'"
(Army Sgt. Michael Connors serves in the Multinational Corps Iraq Public Affairs Office.)