By Spc. Joshua R. FordDecember 21, 2006
AL BAKR, Iraq, Dec. 20, 2006 - A group of retired Iraqi Air Force officers sat in the conference room waiting for an American Army brigade commander they had never met.
Looks of concern painted the faces of the retirees as they anticipated bad news from the American that may change everything - economy, employment and overall quality of life - in their quaint village just outside Logistic Support Area Anaconda near Balad.
Once Col. Bryan Owens, 3rd Brigade Combat Team commander, 82nd Airborne Division, informed them that their contract would not be cancelled, a relief was felt throughout the room by the elder community leaders.
The contract has been paying the Al Kawakib company, which is based in the small village of Al Bakr, to treat water and sewage for coalition troops based on LSA Anaconda. The money and jobs provided by the Al Kawakib company has accounted for most of the village's revenue since Operation Iraqi Freedom began nearly four years ago.
Al Bakr sits about 700 meters away from LSA Anaconda's East Gate. It is inhabited by mostly retired service-members of the former Iraqi Air Force who served under Saddam Hussein. The village sustains on its own without help from Iraq's central government.
The village is owned by Iraq's Ministry of Defense who is currently not helping Al Bakr financially. Without the money provided by the U.S. contract, Al Bakr's economy would take a major decrease in its yearly revenue, especially since they receive nothing from the ministry of defense.
Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, and civil affairs teams, have been working with the village leaders to come up with a solution on how to get Al Bakr recognized by Iraq's central government.
Owens said that without the tie to the provincial and central Iraqi governments, the village could be headed for danger in the future.
One solution that was discussed during the meeting was the fact that the water treatment facility produces more treated water than the village needs. If pipelines could be installed to run to nearby villages that don't have treated water or sewage, the Iraqi government would recognize this and give Al Bakr recognitions that other villages are provided.
The LSA Anaconda contract currently pays $90,000 a month to Al Bakr for the treatment and is not expected to be cancelled in the near future, said Maj. Mark Metzger, civil affairs officer, 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division.
Engineers from LSA Anaconda have already planned to extend some pipelines to the villages surrounding Al Bakr to provide water treatment but, more work is needed to be done on the water treatment facility itself. Upgrades on intakes and pumps will be required soon to keep the treatment plant operational.
Col. Mushtak Taleb Abd Hussein, director of the treatment facility, told each of the villages surrounding Al Bakr that in order for their villages to receive the treatment they would have to maintain security in their areas for the protection of the pipelines, themselves and the coalition forces.
Like the rest of Iraq, Al Bakr is still threatened by the insurgency.
"Several times the insurgents have tried to come into the village, but we have denied them," said an Iraqi engineer who maintains the treatment facilities. "Consider us a friend to the coalition and a part of (LSA) Anaconda."