American Forces Press Service
Feb. 6, 2009 - Coalition forces and members of the U.S. Agency for International Development are continuing their efforts to make Iraq self-sufficient. Northwest of Baghdad yesterday, coalition forces transitioned control of Joint Security Station Salmiyat, an idle rail and rail-car production facility, to the Iraqi Transportation Ministry. The transfer bolsters production and employment in Iraq, officials said.
"This is a great day for Iraq," Amir Abdl al-Jabbar Ismael, Iraq's deputy transportation minister, said. "One of the most modern facilities to produce rail ties in the Middle East will bring many jobs to the Iraqi people. The production facility will also produce sleeper cars that will transport the Iraqi people on the 'backbone of transportation' in Iraq."
Army Col. Todd McCaffrey, commander of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, said the transfer of control represents a "small, but very important application" of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement that took effect Jan. 1, and he pledged continuing support for success in the area.
"Our brigade has forged deep and lasting relationships with the people of Salmiyat and Agur Quf," he said, "and while we depart this JSS, we will remain partnered to assure continued security throughout this critical area."
On Feb. 3, preventive medicine soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team demonstrated food-handling and dining facility inspection procedures to their Iraqi counterparts at the coalition forces dining facility on Contingency Operating Base Adder. The 27th Brigade Support Battalion team focused on food preparation and serving techniques during the Iraqi soldiers' three-hour visit.
"Everything is very well organized here," said Capt. Raheem Hmedy Hafan, an Iraqi officer who observed the American soldiers.
"We were happy for this opportunity to share this experience with the Iraqis," Army Sgt. Jonathan Agrai, the team's noncommissioned officer in charge, said. "[This enables them] to further prevent many common food-borne illnesses in their restaurants and cafeterias."
At Forward Operating Base Gary Owen, 13 of the Iraqi army's newest combat medics graduated from the Combat Life Saver's Course on Feb. 4.
With assistance from soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, Iraqi soldiers taught their comrades the same skills most American soldiers learn while preparing for deployments.
"Thank you my friends," Chief Sgt. Maj. Haider, an Iraqi instructor for the course, said to the U.S. soldiers in marking the first time the class was taught by Iraqis. "I'm ready to work with you any time, any place."
The Iraqi instructors taught basic combat care techniques such as medical care under fire, casualty evacuation, clearing airways and controlling bleeding. They also taught their comrades how to respond to many of the injuries they could encounter in combat, while their American counterparts stood by to field questions.
"The new roles were a sign of progress," Army Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Farmer of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, said. "The goal is to leave this country with a unit capable of sustaining their own medical training."
In addition to the efforts of U.S. military units, the U.S. Agency for Internal Development is helping Iraqis continue their progress toward being self-sufficient. USAID is a branch of the State Department, with offices in developing countries all over the world.
"USAID has been in Iraq since 2003, and has spent over $6.1 billion dollars through various programs designed to promote peace and stability," Army Maj. Gita Velu, Multinational Division Center's USAID liaison officer, said. Velu is assigned to Company B, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion.
USAID has focused its resources in the Multinational Division Center area of operations on three programs, Velu said: agriculture, democracy and governance, and community stabilization.
"The democracy and governance program encourages integration of democratic principals into all levels of Iraqi government," said Renuka Naj, development and outreach communications officer for USAID's Iraq mission.
The community stabilization program, Naj said, provides military-aged men and women with job training and then with jobs that use the skills they've learned. "The aim is hopefully diverting unemployed men and women from engaging in activities counter to the stability and development of Iraq," Naj explained.
The agriculture program is working to revitalize agricultural production, stimulate income and rehabilitate the country's natural resources, Velu said.
(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases. Army Capt. Robert Shaw, Army 1st Lt. Jerry Roberts and Army Pfc. Tyler Maulding contributed to this report.)