By Army Sgt. Mark Miranda
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 16, 2009 - The U.S. ambassador to Iraq met with soldiers and leaders of Task Force Pathfinder here July 12 to thank them for their contributions and to discuss military support of provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq. "What we're seeing is a crucial year, and it's good to see the military working with the [provincial reconstruction teams]," Christopher R. Hill said.
The ambassador met with Army Lt. Col. Michael Eastman, commander of Task Force Pathfinder, 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment. The battalion provides support to reconstruction teams in Iraq's Dhi Qar, Maysan and Muthanna provinces.
"We try to meet the central needs of each area, and every day we're making progress," said Eastman, also the deputy commander for civil capacity for 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade.
The ambassador also met with task force soldiers and discussed the battalion's activities.
Hill acknowledged the challenges of leading the way in efforts to advise and assist. "Not only are you working with the State Department, there are about 10 other civilian agencies working out there," he said. "Coming together can be tough; it's a bit like herding cats."
Communication is key, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert J. Smith Jr., a cavalry scout working with a military movement team in support of the Muthanna Provincial Reconstruction Team. "We have to communicate constantly to make sure we're not in each other's way."
Hill was told about the many roles the task force soldiers take on in support of the reconstruction teams. "Soldiers are stronger and smarter than any time in the Army's 233-year history," he said. "Intelligence and adaptability are exactly what's required on today's battlefield."
The Commander's Emergency Response Program has been particularly effective, Hill noted. Program funds are applied to water, agriculture, electricity, rule of law, governance and other essential service projects requested by the Iraqi government.
"I expect to see a [program] surge," he said.
Building Iraq's economic power and helping the population become self-sustaining will win out in the end over traditional military actions, Hill said.
New infrastructure -- with an educated and entrepreneurial population -- is needed to create an environment that is peaceful and free of terrorism, he said.
"There's a cycle. We've been at this for almost seven years and people are ready to see an end [to violence]," Hill said. "I appreciate what you're doing. You're a real credit to those who want to see a secure, economically stable Iraq."
(Army Sgt. Mark Miranda serves in the 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.)