Joining Forces for a Better Ameriya
October 29, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAWK, Iraq - Cooperation is the key to any successful mission, and for one western Baghdad neighborhood of Ameriya the cooperation between forces from U.S., Iraqi and community volunteers is beginning to pay off.
Members of the Fort Hood, Texas-based 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, operating in western Baghdad as part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, met with members of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and the volunteer group Forsan Al Rafideen (FAR), which is Arabic for "knights of the river," at Forward Operating Base Hawk Oct. 26.A,A The purpose of the meeting was to synchronize their operations and common goals between troops and the volunteers.
FAR is assisting in securing their neighborhood, in collaboration with Iraqi Army and the cavalry troops, said Huntsville, Ala. native, Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl, commander for the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.A,A A "gated" community, Ameriya has two major entry points, and they are jointly operated by the three forces.
As the situation in Ameriya improved, Kuehl said he and his Iraqi Security Force counterparts have been able to focus its attention from identifying insurgents to identifying the essential service needs of the community, such as trash collection, electricity and sewer system repair.
"The sewer networks are functional, but they haven't been cleaned in probably a few years," said Palmyra, Pa., native Maj. Chip Daniels, the operations officer for 1-5 Cavalry. "They get clogged up and you get sewage backed up onto the streets."
No immediate project was mentioned about electricity, and trash projects present a tough, but common, obstacle.
"Trash (pick up) is an on-going thing, but quite honestly, we don't have enough money to do that yet," said Kuehl. "It's one of our challenges right now. We don't have enough money to do all the projects."
The people of Ameriya are getting back on their feet, and they have proved how significant the collaboration of the community is with the different forces patrolling the area.
"The community coming forward and providing local citizens to work with us has been essential for us to defeat al-Qaida," said Kuehl. "We say al-Qaida is defeated in Ameriya now.A,A I couldn't say that for a long time, but now I can say it.
"We have not had an IED (improvise explosive device) attack since Aug. 7," he added. "We could not have done that without the help of the locals."
Another example of the community doing its part is the FAR, a group of local volunteers working as an auxiliary police force.
"In Ameriya, there are no Iraqi police. It has only American Army and Iraqi Army, and they (FAR) help fill the void the police would be," said Daniels. "They'll walk with us and the IA to patrol the neighborhood to maintain security. They are local people, so they know everyone in the neighborhood, which is very helpful."
Although Ameriya seems to be a reasonably quiet place now, this hasn't always been the case.
"Back in May, there was some very heavy fighting going on. This battalion lost 14 Soldiers in the month of May alone," said Daniels. "Now, we haven't had an attack since Aug. 7. That's really because of the cooperation between Iraqi Army and Forsan Al Rafideen."
Through the cooperation of both, U.S. and Iraqi Forces, citizens of Ameriya hope their community will continue to develop its infrastructure and economy.
"By working together, we're able to provide a better sense of security for the people," said Daniels. "That allows the shop owner who couldn't open his shop several months ago because of the violence, to open up his shop now."
Over the course of the next few months U.S., Iraq and FAR will continue working side-by-side, improving the security situation and working toward raising the overall standard of living for the residents of Ameriya.