American Forces Press Service
July 8, 2009 - U.S. forces strengthened relationships with their Iraqi counterparts in recent days as they worked to help a city in need and to improve health care and quality of life throughout Iraq. U.S. forces are providing humanitarian aid to the residents of an Iraqi city recovering after a devastating truck bomb attack in June. Representatives from the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the Kirkuk provincial reconstruction team traveled to Taza, south of Kirkuk, on June 27 to assist in the recovery.
Forces assessed the security situation, delivered much-needed water and inspected a tent city. The Turkish government and several nongovernmental organizations donated the tents to residents who lost their homes in the blast, said Army Capt. Nathan Jennings, commander of Company C, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
"The town has been feeding at least 3,000 people a day since the blast to accommodate the family members and friends who came to attend funerals," Jennings said. "We brought the water to make sure the visitors had enough."
Water lines leading to the destroyed homes have been temporarily repaired, and water to the city has been restored, said Talib, Taza's mayor.
Chris Jennings, from the Kirkuk reconstruction team, offered his team's help with recovery efforts.
"In the coming weeks, we can start looking at offering microgrants to help businesses that were damaged in the attack rebuild," Jennings said.
A plan is in place; however, it will take about a year to rebuild, the mayor said.
"If terrorists knew this explosion would have unified Arabs, Turks and Christians, they wouldn't have done it," Talib said. "It has united us."
Elsewhere, officials are preparing to turn over Baghdad's historic Ibn Sina Hospital to Iraqi government control. U.S. forces are scheduled to return the facility to the Iraqis on Oct. 1, in accordance with the U.S.-Iraq security agreement.
The U.S. Army's 10th Combat Support Hospital is currently operating the facility. The staff will continue to provide health care for patients until the transition.
"The mission of the 10th CSH is sustaining," said Army Col. Raphael De Jesus, 10th CSH commander. "Our ability to provide excellent health care to U.S. and coalition forces during the transition will not be interrupted."
Coalition servicemembers and civilians will be treated for minor medical issues at Ibn Sina until July 15, when a new outpatient clinic is slated to open on Forward Operating Base Prosperity, also located in Baghdad.
Hospital staff will continue to offer emergency room and inpatient services until Ibn Sina Hospital temporarily closes its doors Aug. 15 to prepare for the facility's return to the Iraqi government's Health Ministry.
Also looking to the future, the deputy governor of Salahuddin province met with U.S. leaders and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss upcoming projects June 29 at the corps' regional headquarters on Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit.
"We will have better results at the start of our projects due to the additional insight the Iraqi personnel bring to the table," said Glenn Myrick, resident engineer for the corps.
The goal is to incorporate more frequent communication during the project lifecycle, not just at the start and finish of a project, Myrick said. This will give the provincial leaders more confidence that the projects are being handled correctly.
"I know that having Iraqi leaders' input is essential because they know the terrain of Iraq and have adapted to the environment," said Army Capt. Justin King, the Commander's Emergency Response Program manager for the
25th Infantry Division's 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)