BAGHDAD - When the word "Army" is mentioned, most Americans envision fire fights, tanks and flanking maneuvers but in Iraq, one of the Army's primary missions is to help the Iraqi people stabilize their infrastructure.
Provincial reconstruction teams provide the Iraqi government with resources and technical knowledge to aid in rebuilding the country.
Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division-Center, have been assigned to protect the members of the Provincial Reconstruction Team-Baghdad. The various missions assigned to the Soldiers of 2nd Squad, HHC, STB, 2nd AAB, take them through many parts of Baghdad.
"Walking along the road, Baghdad can appear bedraggled and run down," said Staff Sgt. Henry Pogue, a squad leader. "However, lately the citizens of Baghdad have been re-emerging from the streets more vigorous and prepared for the future."
One of the squad's most recent missions was escorting PRT-B to the Baghdad Zoo - a popular attraction before Operation Iraqi Freedom. The purpose of PRT-B's visit was to evaluate the safety of the zoo and ensure that the organization running the facility was self-sufficient, Pogue said.
"While we all expected old buildings and sand dunes, what we found was truly a sight to behold," said Spc. Katrina Carpenter, a military police officer. "It looked just like any zoo in the United States. Iraqi citizens and United States forces were working side-by-side to rebuild and maintain the place."
Once inside the grounds, the Soldiers were greeted by the guards. The staff ushered the Soldiers onto the grounds and showed the troops the exhibits and the two groups shared a meal. As the Soldiers looked around the zoo, Iraqi families strolled past the exhibits seemingly unconcerned by the presence of the Soldiers.
"The children were so excited to see all the animals," said Pogue. "Children were asking us our favorite soccer team and ask how we enjoyed their city."
The officials with PRT-B found the zoo to be operating effectively on its own, having improved considerably since the team's last visit.
"Of all the missions 2nd squad has conducted, the escort mission to the zoo was the most pleasant and what the squad witnessed in their visit seems to make the last several years worth it," Pogue said. "The Iraqi people are growing and striving as a society and a community, trying to make their lives better as well as the lives of their children."