Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lifeblood Pumped Into Farming Community

This article is one that should be on the front pages of all newspapers, but (un)fortunately it does not fit the ethic of blood and guts. No, this is an article of success!

Lifeblood Pumped Into Farming Community in Mrezat.
18 July 07
By Spc. L.B. Edgar
7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – There was no network news coverage, no front page spread, but local leaders of Mrezat, a small agricultural village in a northern section of the Adhamiyah District, shed tears of joy as water pumped from the Tigris River and passed attendees of a ceremony to mark the opening of a new pumping station in the community.

In Mrezat, water is the lifeblood of the people. The agrarian community subsists primarily on palm-date groves, which are grown throughout the year. Without proper irrigation the groves wither and date production ceases.

Mrezat’s refurbished irrigation pump brings the needed water from the Tigris’ base to the farmers’ crops.

Though the opening was of critical importance to the residents of Mrezat, the success story will not make any headlines, said Lt. Col. Al Shoffner, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

“I would welcome the media to cover things like today and I don’t think if we had media there I would have to say much,” said the native of Lawton, Okla., referring to the grateful residents of Mrezat.

True success stories, like Mrezat’s pump opening, go unnoticed largely due to the overemphasis placed on the loss of human life. While he admits there is a human toll to warfare, Capt. Frank Fisher, a non-kinetic project officer with the regiment’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, said it shouldn’t necessitate the omission of any and all progress.

Fisher, a 37-year-old native of Dryden, Mich., said that media reporting in the United States often overlooks the construction of humanitarian projects in Iraq. He said Mrezat’s irrigation pump is producing between 1,000 and 5,000 gallons of irrigation water per hour. Up to 12,000 residents’ lives are better because of it, he said.

The culmination of two months work by the Basateen Neighborhood Advisory Council was good news for the people it affected and those who assisted in the project.

“It’s important for Soldiers to see they are not merely security guards but are helping the government of Iraq and its people get back on their feet,” said Shoffner.

He said projects like this one help ensure security more than patrols, because people have a vested interest in maintaining order.

“Recently, the area has been peaceful and because it’s been peaceful and secure we’re able to do projects like we did today,” Shoffner said. “I think the sheiks understand that these sorts of projects are only possible if they are willing to police themselves and maintain the peace.”

Mrezat and the Basateen area of Adhamiyah are expected to see even more progress in the near future, with upcoming projects to refurbish two schools and repave roads. In neighboring Suffiya, a cooperative of power generators is in the works. Basateen is slated to receive reusable solar energy, Fisher said.

All of the projects will act as band aids until the government of Iraq fixes its power grid, Shoffner said.

“The projects are designed so they do not depend on coalition forces or Iraqi security forces for fuel, maintenance or to operate the generators. The communities do that themselves,” Shoffner explained.

With upcoming projects on tap and the Basateen Neighborhood Advisory Council working to improve the community, Fisher said maybe one day, that too, will make the news.

Photo - Lt. Col. Al Shoffner, native of Lawton, Okla., and commander of 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division speaks with leaders of Mrezat in the Basateen neighborhood of Baghdad's Adhamiyah district before the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the Mrezat Water Pump Station July 10. The irrigation pump benefits 10 to 12 thousand people in Mrezat, whose primary crop is the palm-date grove.

Sources: MNF-I.

Originally posted @ DoD Daily News-2.

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