3rd Sustainment Brigade certifies 400 Iraqi workers
July 16, 2010
<b>JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq</b> - More than 400 local Iraqi workers received certificates from the Miran Village Company certifying them as professional welders, carpenters or painters during a ceremony held at Joint Base Balad, Iraq's Morale Welfare and Recreation-East building, July 6.
"These certificates show the Iraqi people outside of the base that the workers here have worked with the U.S. and have learned a skill that they can use outside of the base," said Sgt. 1st Class Andre Wills, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Container Repair Yard for the 159th Seaport Operations Company, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). "It holds a lot of weight on the outside."
The workers are part of a project run by the Miran Village Company in conjunction with the U.S. government. Containers are shipped from all over Iraq to the JBB CRY to be repaired and made sea-worthy so the military can use them to ship excess equipment and materials back to the U.S. or wherever it may need to go, Wills explained.
"Each container costs roughly around $6,000 to $9,000 to purchase, but only costs $800-$900 to repair so we are saving the Army a lot of money," he said. "The CRY has been around since September 2008. They started off with around 25 employees repairing 20 containers a month and now they are up to 450 employees repairing 2,000 containers a month."
The certificates issued by Hashim Abd Al-Amir Mahdi, owner and manager of the Miran Village Company, known as "Mr. Hashim" around the CRY, will allow the Iraqi workers to have other means of income once the U.S. forces pull out of Iraq, said Wills.
Al-Amir Mahdi said he was very proud of his workers and their accomplishments. He said that these certificates were another great step toward a stable Iraqi economy.
"Before this project, many families' average salary was $200 average for the entire family," he said. "Now, one worker makes $600 average. That is a big difference from $200 coming from the whole family to $600 coming from just one person."
He added that the workers also have the time to help out on family projects and farms because they only work on average 20 days out of the month.
Within a week or so, said Al-Amir Mahdi, the Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs will hand out their own certificates allowing the workers to open up their own businesses outside of base.
Al-Amir Mahdi re-stated his pride in his workers, his company and the great things that they are doing with the U.S. government for the people of Iraq and its economy.
"Society needs skilled and organized labor, and by training people right now we will get skills for the future. This is helping build Iraq for the future," he said. "They already have certification. These people will be the new backbone of our economy. We can see a bright future for them and the future of our country."