American Forces Press Service
March 10, 2009 - U.S. forces in Iraq are providing the building blocks of a bright future there with the opening of a new police station and upgrades to public water and electricity in recent days. Local residents, contractors, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 8th Infantry Regiment and the 110th Military Police Company gathered March 4 in the city of Diwaniya for the opening ceremony of the new police headquarters for the city's Qada district.
"They went from sharing an office to operating out of their own building," Army 1st Lt. David Faulkner, a platoon leader with the 110th, said. Faulkner works with eight stations encompassing two districts of Diwaniya.
"It allows better facilities for Iraqi police to focus on their training in a more conducive environment and allows a shorter distance of travel for each of the outlying stations," Faulkner said. The central location also provides the headquarters with better command and control and coordination of the collective police force in the district.
The headquarters was built by Iraqi contractors and workers with coordination through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Iraqi government.
"Overall, we're advancing in our relations with them to further professionalize the Iraqi police force," Faulkner said. "It's a great opportunity to share our ideas of policing to enhance their way of doing things."
U.S. forces are opening buildings and improving basic services throughout Iraq. In the city of Tunis, soldiers with the 172 Infantry Brigade's 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion recently completed their final inspection of the Tunis water treatment facility.
Iraq built the plant 11 years ago, but with time and neglect, it fell well below acceptable standards, officials said.
"When we arrived here, all of the pipes, valves and pumps needed to be replaced," Army Spc. Laura Garretto, the battalion's project manager for the plant renovation, said. "It was not working to standard for the Iraqi people."
The water travels through a series of filters, then pumps to the local community.
"We need more water treatment facilities, because there are some communities where people are still drinking directly from the river," said Nassir Mugheer Nassir, the son of a local sheik, who visits often to ensure quality work and progress.
A water intake pump removes water straight from the nearby canal. The canal is a tributary of the Euphrates River and susceptible to drought.
USACE employees established the scope of work to be done at the plant, and the civil affairs teams have been using their training and experience to ensure that the work is done to standard. They will continue to work with the local government to ensure the plant remains running properly.
The city of Samarra, which also recently received an upgraded water system, is receiving improved electricity, thanks to the help of the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which is working with city officials to upgrade the power grid.
A local contractor working with city officials and U.S. forces on a long-term plan for future power estimated it would take more than 200 megawatts of electricity to power the entire city. Current output is just below half that number, he said.
"An electrical project can be something as simple as installing new transformers and running new power lines, or as complex as upgrading or developing entire power substations," said Mike Craft, leader of the Salahuddin provincial reconstruction team. "No matter what the size of the project, every small step helps."
Hundreds of meters of electrical cable have been run to neighborhoods throughout the city in recent months to improve access to electricity.
In addition to localized construction, work is under way to connect several of Samarra's power substations to a nearly completed mega station known as the Jalasiya power plant. The total power output from Jalasiya, once generating at full capacity, is estimated to be 340 megawatts. Much of the electricity is slated to go to Samarra.
Testing already has begun at the power plant, and Jalasiya should be fully operational by mid-summer, officials said.
In Basra, farmers reaped the benefits of U.S. funding when 40 tractors and four generators were delivered there in a March 7 ceremony.
The ceremony, which benefitted the Qurna, Medina, Shatt al
Arab and Abu al Khaseeb farmers associations, represented one of 10 projects funded by the U.S. Commander's Emergency Response Program for the Basra province agricultural program. The total cost for the projects is $10 million.
"It used to cost us 75,000 dinars per day for one of these
tractors, but after today it should only cost us for the fuel and the driver. I would like to thank [Multinational Force Iraq] for that," Abd Al Rahman Khalid, a Basra farmer, said through an interpreter.
Other agricultural projects in the program reach as far south as Safwan and as far north as Qurna, and include greenhouses, irrigation systems and other necessary equipment to support the agricultural redevelopment in Basra.
"This is a wonderful example of a truly joint project where we work together as partners, listen to people's needs and come together for the people of Iraq and your agricultural associations," British Royal Marine Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon, commander of Multinational Division Southeast, said at the ceremony.
(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases. Army Sgt. Rodney Foliente of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team and Army Capt. Stephen C. Short of the 172nd Infantry Brigade contributed to this article.)