By Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 21, 2008 - The people of Kut, Iraq, now have more reliable electricity, thanks to the upgrade of a substation switch gear, which increases the availability of power for transmission and distribution. Workers replaced two sections of the antiquated substation and brought them online about two weeks ago. Government officials celebrated the work's completion during a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 16.
"The people of al Kut have noticed a significant increase in the power available," said Army Staff Sgt. David McFate, a team leader with 411th Civil Affairs Team. "One person told us that they went from having just minutes of electricity a day to several hours."
Most significantly, the improvements to the substation increased the reliability of power distributed to about 300,000 people in Kut, nearly half of the city's population.
"The new switch gear was a one-for-one swap with the original equipment that was installed in 1973," Kevin Olsen, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager for the substation. "The new equipment provides quicker power on for the three substations the circuit breakers feed."
Modernizing the substation equipment helps to speed up the process of troubleshooting when the power goes out.
"Now the substation switches are easy to check and reset, and much more reliable," Army Maj. David Fedroff, USACE resident engineer for Iraq's Wasit province.
The one-year project is just one of a number of projects USACE, the people of Kut and Wasit province, the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces have accomplished together.
"The PRT continues to help the people of Wasit and work with the people of Wasit to get their essential services established or restored," Bob Kagler, Wasit PRT leader, said. "We look forward [to] working with the Iraqi and local government in tackling these challenges together."
Although the new switch gear improves the reliability of the electricity to the city, the electrical infrastructure still poses many challenges.
"Unfortunately, the distribution network still needs a lot of work," Fedroff said. "You can see that driving around town, with the wires hanging from every pole in every direction."
These essential service projects would not be possible without the improved security situation in Kut and the cooperation with the Iraqi security forces, said Army Lt. Col. Timothy Bush, 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment commander. "The best projects are the ones that are decided by the people and enabled by security that is provided by the people."
The situation continues to improve for the people of Wasit, one project at a time.
"We will continue to work with the PRT, Iraqi police and Iraqi Army to develop projects that meet the needs of the people," Bush said.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson serves in the 41st Fires Brigade Public Affairs Office.)