American Forces Press Service
Feb. 13, 2009 - As Iraq becomes increasingly self-sufficient, U.S. forces remain on hand to offer training and guidance aimed at building relationships and a better future for the nation. These relationships often are fostered at meetings and conferences, where Iraqi and U.S. forces exchange ideas, establish partnerships and bring issues, such as women's rights, to light.
A recent meeting in Kirkuk province laid the groundwork for a military partnership. Army Col. Ryan Gonsalves, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, met with two Iraqi generals from the 12th Iraqi Army Division earlier this month to discuss the security situation and economic opportunities in the province.
The brigade is replacing elements from the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and will work with the 12th Iraqi Army Division, currently operating north of Baghdad.
"The purpose of the partnership is to jointly conduct operations and training as a team, with the goal of ultimately preparing the partnered unit to operate on its own," Army Maj. Christopher Norrie, the brigade's operations officer, said.
In separate meetings, Gonsalves met with Iraqi Brig. Gen. Abdul Razaaq, commander of the 46th Iraqi Army Brigade, and Iraqi Brig. Gen. Malik Khudir-Khudir Ahmed, commander of the 47th Iraqi Army Brigade. The leaders discussed the importance of joint U.S.-Iraqi operations, as well as the need for cooperation between Iraqi soldiers and civilians in Kirkuk.
Ahmed said he would like to start an active community relations program to enable locals to see the Iraqi army at work.
"I am very optimistic," Ahmed said. "I think we are going toward a better life."
As U.S. forces built relationships with their Iraqi counterparts, the focus at Forward Operating Base Kalsu was on building equality. Iraqi leaders of nongovernmental organizations gathered to connect with peers and government representatives at the first Women's Initiatives Conference on Feb. 6.
The Women's Initiatives Team -- made up of soldiers from the 172nd Infantry Brigade and Company B, 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion -- connects Iraqi government agencies to Iraqi women, seeking to empower them with equal rights and privileges.
A common theme among the speakers was the abhorrence of violence and desire to improve the human rights and lives of Iraqi women.
The groups gathered concerns and questions for forwarding to the appropriate government agencies, all in hopes of connecting the Iraqi people to their government.
"This conference brought many different people together to create one voice for change," Army 1st Lt. Gloria Brickles, the Women's Initiatives Team leader, said. "I truly believe in the power of the people to make change for women in Iraq."
(Compiled from Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)