BAGHDAD - Twenty-five hundred dollars isn't much to an American businessman. Maybe a computer or one month's office space rent, but $2,500 won't make or break his business. In Thalba, a neighborhood in northeast Baghdad, that amount can be the difference between not being able to feed your family and providing jobs for many families.

For Soldiers of Apache Troop, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, their mission is to make that difference a reality with micro-grants.

The program is designed to give up to $2,500 to deserving local Iraqi business owners who have clear business plans and the ability to hire additional employees, explained 2nd Lt. Aakar Brahmbhatt, a Schaumburg, Ill. native, fire support officer, assigned to Apache Troop. The determined Apache Troop Soldiers have recently submitted four micro-grants that they hope will be paid by the end of the month.

"We go to local businesses to assess the situation to find out who'd be best to give a little money to to improve their business and boost their economy to create some jobs in their area," said Staff Sgt. Daniel McHenry, a cavalry scout squad leader from Zanesville, Ohio, assigned to Apache Troop.

The cavalry scouts spend countless hours patrolling Thalba and meeting with different shop owners in order to decide who will use the money efficiently and effectively.

"For the most part, it goes to people who can actually create new jobs and actually bring more money into the area to help out the local community," McHenry added.

Meeting with the local business owners and even the local leader of the muhalla, or moqtar, ensures that the Soldiers fully assess the neighborhood and are certain the grant will boost the local economy before awarding any money, emphasized McHenry.

"The people who receive the micro-grants use the money to buy materials to help fill their shops," said Hameed Hamid Fayadh, the moqtar of muhalla 365 in Thalba. "If it's available, my community needs more micro-grants and projects like this to help many people start small shops and hire more people."

The micro-grant program isn't a new project for Coalition forces, but Apache Troop Soldiers are noticing a difference in Thalba.

"We're trying to boost some employment here and get some jobs for maybe people that don't have any," said Pfc. Daniel Isherwood, a cavalry scout vehicle driver from Jacksonville, N.C., assigned to Apache Troop. "It keeps them off the streets; gets some money in the towns so they don't have to go to other not so good sources to get money for their families."

Patrolling the streets of Thalba talking to local business owners and keeping people off the streets is a daily task for Apache Troop Soldiers.

"With our presence out there, most of the insurgent activity dies down," said McHenry with a long smile. "With the money and security, we're helping these people out a lot."

"The more money that's in an area, the better the way of life is going to be," explained McHenry. "The better their way of life is here; the easier it is for us. If this small area gets better, the entire country gets better."

In Thalba, boosting economic prosperity and giving the opportunity to one local Iraqi businessman to hire more people improves the security situation and lives of Iraqis one micro-grant at a time. Yet, the effects of this program are not localized. This is just one step in rebuilding the entire economy of Iraq.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16