By Army Sgt. Whitney C. Houston
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 18, 2008 - Reconstruction projects throughout the Tarmiyah region northwest of Baghdad are providing many opportunities for residents to move forward and begin living better lives. The citizens of Tarmiyah have lacked many essential services such as schools, potable water, sewers and banks. However, reconstruction projects are in progress to help restore the infrastructure.
"The bottom line is that increased capacity is what every Iraqi needs right now," said Army 1st Lt. Eric Peterson, a native of Littleton, Colo., who serves in Multinational Division Baghdad as a platoon leader with the 25th Infantry Division's Company A, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "Their infrastructure has decayed a little bit because of conflict over the years, so we're trying to counteract those effects by really getting into these reconstruction projects as heavy and as hard as we can to give them this capacity."
Education buildings have been a top priority, as school is ready to begin. "We have 17 school projects going on right now," Peterson said. "So we're hustling right now to finish up the school projects, then we'll get more involved with services like water, electricity and sewage."
Funding for the reconstruction effort is provided through the Iraqi Commanders Emergency Relief Program. Using this program allows the local government to get money for projects quickly and efficiently. It also allows officials to help in the planning process, hire local contractors and mitigate corruption. Coalition forces gather weekly with local government officials to ensure that everyone is on the same page and the projects are going smoothly, Peterson explained.
Security still is a key issue on residents' minds. The Iraqi police are instrumental in ensuring the security of the project sites and residents.
"The security situation is getting better in Tarmiyah," said Mohammad Jassim al-Mashadani, Tarmiyah area leader. "We have meetings often with the police to ensure that security constantly improves, because security is directly correlated with the project's success."
As good as security is getting, it is still not perfect. Recent suicide-bomb attacks have killed a U.S. soldier and local residents and wounded a prominent "Sons of Iraq" citizen security group leader, who lost his right leg from the blast but managed to get away with his life, Peterson explained.
But despite these attacks, Jassim said, spirits are high because of the benefits of reconstruction.
"The people are very happy about the projects," he said. "This year, we've had a lot of projects which have helped us very much. Coalition forces and the [Iraqi government] have enabled us to give our people jobs, and a decrease in terrorism shows the people are backing the projects. God willing, our city will continue to improve."
(Army Sgt. Whitney C. Houston serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)