Thursday, June 12, 2008

Iraqi-funded projects boost economy

by Travis Hayes
4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKAN, Iraq (June 8) – Residents of Khidr and Abu Shemshi recently received almost $2.5 million from the government of Iraq to fund eight projects. The money came in the form of Iraqi Commander's Emergency Response Program funds, which use GoI money in the existing framework of coalition forces CERP. Two of the I-CERP projects are bridges that will allow crucial access for local residents to travel to markets and highways. Another key project is a marketplace that will provide stores for vendors to sell their products, helping develop the local economy.

Sergeant 1st Class Earsker Hawkins and Staff Sgt. Mathew Taylor, both with the civil affairs team, visit the al-Jineen School, which is one of eight GoI-funded projects in Khidr. (U.S. Army photo by 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs)In addition, the Babil provincial government funded the construction of the al-Jineen and Manahil schools, providing education for hundreds of children who were previously without schools. Reaction to these projects from the community has been exceptional, said Sheik Jaffar, head of the Khidr town council. "This is great," Jaffar said. "I can't explain in words what this means to me. I'm so happy. We are all proud to finally have the support and attention of the Iraqi government. This gives us all hope of a peaceful future."

A civil affairs team based out of FOB Iskan has been working alongside Company B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, working for months to ensure the contracting and construction of these vital structures are carried out correctly. Staff Sergeant Mathew Taylor, civil affairs Team A civil-military operations non-commissioned officer in charge, has been responsible for managing and disbursing millions of GoI dollars. His team not only pays contractors but focuses on providing quality control for ongoing projects to ensure contractors are staying on task. Soldiers in 3-7th Inf. Regt. have aggressively pursued I-CERP funding, which allows the GoI to fund and take ownership on projects, said the San Diego native.

This process builds Iraqis' confidence in both their local and provincial government. Now with the flow of resources and vast funding, a sense of assurance and belief in government has spawned and taken root here.

"The psychological effect these projects have had on the people here is insurmountable," said Maj. Sean Hood, a Nassau County, N.Y., native and CA Team A chief. "This town has undergone a complete transformation; everything from the new schools, bridges and marketplace. Khidr has grown from a few sparse buildings when we started working here into a booming economic success story. I like to think of Khidr as the phoenix that rose from the ashes." The Babil provincial government has approved I-CERP funding on reconstruction projects such as schools, water purification plants, health clinics and city planning facilities.

Sergeant 1st Class Earsker Hawkins and Staff Sgt. Mathew Taylor, both with the civil affairs team, visit the al-Jineen School, which is one of eight GoI-funded projects in Khidr. (U.S. Army photo by 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs).

Source: CENTCOM.

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