By Army Spc. David Hodge
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 24, 2008 - Eight months ago, opening a bank in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad sounded like a good way to stir up trouble. Times have changed in the area, however, and local residents now have tangible proof of the economic resurgence in the area as they gathered in Doura on April 20 for the grand reopening of the Rashid Commercial Bank.
A crowd of excited faces, joined by members of the Iraqi security forces and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, assembled around a doorway that was secured only by a strand of ribbon.
With a snip of the scissors, the crowd of Iraqi citizens, which had amassed hours earlier, began filing inside to use the bank's services.
"Today is a historic day for us," said Zuhair al-Jumaily, bank manager. "We are pleased to reopen this branch and provide services to the residents of Doura."
With tellers already in position to begin work, the residents of this center of commerce, known by many as the Doura market, trickled inside through the taut security.
"In the past, Doura's situation was very bad," Jumaily said. "Today, the area is safe and secure. The bank will serve a large number of residents, and we are very pleased with the efforts of the coalition forces."
Army Capt. Daryl Carter, commander of the 10th Mountain Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, works with the residents of Doura and patrols the streets daily.
"The place was basically desolate until about eight months ago," Carter said. "Now, if you walk down Market Road, it's a gold mine. We can barely drive through this area without being surrounded by people."
When the community was at its worst, many of the residents abandoned their homes and businesses to seek refuge someplace else, Carter said.
The lead contract manager for the opening of the Rashid Community Bank, Ahmed al-Hadad, said he knew the residents would be surprised when the rumor of the bank reopening spread around.
"All the people are very happy," Hadad said. "We invited everyone that lives in the community to the opening."
The bank opening is indirectly the result of the hard work and efforts put forth by the Iraqi security forces and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers in enhancing security in the area, officials said.
"It was a pretty monumental event," said Army 1st Lt. Justin Chabalko, a mortar platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. "Since security has been good, there has been a lot of progress in the area." The bank's re-opening shows there is stability in the region and also that the government can provide for its people, said Chabalko, who hails from Hazleton, Pa.
In the afternoon, when the bank's business hours were near completion, a nearby vehicle's loudspeaker announced the bank would stay open until all the customers outside had been served.
(Army Spc. David Hodge serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)