American Forces Press Service
March 18, 2009 - Aided by U.S. forces, Iraqis are making vast strides toward sovereignty as they assume responsibility for everything from public works operations to joint security stations, all while working to boost the quality of life in Iraq. In Baghdad, four public works substations funded by coalition forces were turned over to the Iraqi government March 16 in Mansour district's Yarmouk neighborhood.
"This is a great day in Baghdad," Naeem Abaob al-Kaabi, deputy mayor of Baghdad, said. "The main purpose is to serve the citizens of this country."
About 40 public works vehicles, including street sweepers, dump trucks, trash trucks and loaders, also were transferred, Kaabi said.
"The population sees their government improving their quality of life," said Army Lt. Col. John Richardson, commander for the 1st Infantry Division's 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "This is equipment they use day to day across the city to keep the trash and sewage at a manageable level to allow the population to enjoy a high quality of life."
All four of the substations are collocated with a joint security station, ensuring protection and a close working relationship between Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, Richardson said.
"It's a day of pride because they are taking the full lead," he said.
Iraqi forces also are taking the helm from coalition forces in other parts of Iraq. Iraqi security forces and the local government assumed responsibility for manning and operating Joint Security Station 2 in Diwaniya on March 14.
"The Iraqi security forces are willing, ready and capable to conduct all operations," Army Maj. William Sachse, executive officer for 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, said. "This has been evident with the recent holidays, as well as the [provincial] elections." During those events, Iraqi security forces provided the majority of the security.
"Today marks an important day for the Iraqi people of Diwaniya," Sachse added. "The transfer of JSS 2 highlights the irreversible momentum toward a free and prosperous Iraq. Although U.S. forces are leaving JSS 2, our relationship will not change. I look forward to our continued partnership."
As Iraqis assume control of their operations, U.S. forces are providing training to ensure their counterparts are ready to take on new challenges.
In Wasit province, U.S. forces taught seven Iraqi soldiers how to repair generators in the motor pool at Forward Operating Base Delta.
Generator mechanics from the ground support equipment section, Company B, 589th Brigade Support Battalion, 41st Fires Brigade, taught the course in preparation for the handover of the joint security stations in the province.
"They've absorbed six months of training in a few days," Army Sgt. 1st Class Vernon Watson, noncommissioned officer in charge for the ground support equipment section, said.
The training began March 12 with classroom courses. The Iraqis quickly moved to hands-on training using control boxes and generator parts in the shop.
"We were able to show them on actual generators where wires go," Watson said. They also learned how to troubleshoot, perform preventive maintenance checks and services and voltage checks.
The Iraqis picked up the generator details so quickly Watson expanded the class to other services the shop provides, such as vehicle air-conditioning repair and welding.
The company's soldiers also are working with the 8th Motorized Transportation Regiment to ensure the new generators going to the joint security stations will have backup parts when maintenance becomes necessary, Army Capt. Jarod Shelton, the Company B commander, said.
In recent humanitarian missions:
In South Balad Ruz, Iraqi soldiers conducted a humanitarian aid mission March 14 that helped about 700 residents. Supplies included rice, flour, sugar and cooking oil. The humanitarian mission served not only to improve the lives of the residents, but also to build local relations between residents and Iraqi security forces in the area.
"It's good to see the Iraqi army in the lead," said Army Maj. Chris Hyde of the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "The [Iraqi army] in Diyala have been steadily improving their abilities to provide security to local residents in recent years; now, they're doing even more for the people of the region -- they're providing hope."
Iraqi policemen, firefighters and Kirkuk city council members participated March 8 in a new program aimed at cleaning up one street a week in downtown Kirkuk. Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, who operate in Kirkuk, also assisted with the trash pickup.
"Kirkuk once won awards for being the cleanest, most beautiful city in Iraq," Army Maj. David Chiarenza, the operations officers for 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said.
This program will help restore the city's former beauty and improve living conditions, Chiarenza added. Cleaner streets create a better environment and make it more difficult for insurgents to operate.
"Trash on the street poses a health hazard and provides a hiding place for bombs," he said. "Initiated by the Ministry of the Interior, the trash pickup days will take place Thursday or Friday of each week."
In Riyadh, a renovation of the Al Athabiah Primary School was completed March 2. Contractors from the Riyadh Civil Service Corps hired about 70 Iraqi student workers -- who had recently acquired skills in painting, concrete work and carpentry -- to help with the three-month-long renovation project. School repairs include new electrical wiring, new cement to refurbish the flooring and fresh paint.
(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq and Multinational Division Center news releases. Army Sgt. Rodney Foliente of 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team and Army Sgt. Allison Churchill of the 41st Fires Brigade contributed to this article.)