By Army Pfc. Evan Loyd
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 10, 2008 - Coalition troops have newfound friends in the town of Ishtar near here, thanks to the re-opening of a water and electric substation that has brought basic services to people who have long gone without them on any regular basis. "Before this project, the villagers used to be indifferent to us," said Army 2nd Lt. Brian Callahan, leader of Civil Affairs Team 33, part of the 1st Armored Division's 35th Armored Regiment, 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "But now they are happy to see us and thankful for our help."
The battalion has helped numerous communities since arriving in Iraq in April, but had no occasion to do a project in Ishtar, even though it is only five minutes away from Combat Outpost Cashe, where troops are based southeast of Baghdad, until the chance arose for the battalion to help fund and re-open the Ishtar Water and Electric Substation, which was marked with a Dec. 7 ceremony.
"They are our close neighbors, but this is the first time that we have had a chance to do something just for them," Callahan said.
Before the substation was refurbished, the local Iraqis had only sporadic power and had water shipped in from outside sources.
"We solved the two big problems of water and electricity in the town of Ishtar," said Fadil Mottleck, assistant chairman of the Jisr Diyala Council. "This should be considered great progress in Ishtar's steps toward recovery."
Though $166,000 in coalition funds paid for the project, one of the biggest contributors to getting the substation up and running was Assum Abed, the contractor who oversaw the project and lives in Ishtar.
"He went above and beyond the scope of the work," said Army Sgt. Christopher Nishio, team sergeant of the Civil affairs team. "I think he took extra pride in his work since he was working for his community's water and electric supplies."
Although his original contract was only for the electrical substation, Abed notified the Civil affairs team that work needed to be done on the water substation in the same complex while working on the electrical system.
"The pipes were rusty and in disrepair, and there were no pumps whatsoever," Callahan said. "Thanks to Mr. Abed, all the pipes are new, and there are two pumps pushing water to the town."
Thanks to Abed, the substations have roofs that do not leak, sturdy new walls and cement walkways connecting the two buildings. To top everything off, he gave everything a wash and a fresh coat of paint.
"I am really happy and excited for my village. We now have running water and electricity that works," Abed said at the ceremony. "I would like to thank the coalition forces for their support in funding this project, and I look forward to working with them again in any future projects."
(Pfc. Evan Loyd works in the public affairs office of the 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.)