ABDUL RAZAQ, Iraq - Soldiers from the 3rd Sustainment Command's 7th Sustainment Brigade gathered with local Iraqi leaders in Abdul Razaq, to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the village's water purification unit Sept. 30.
Col. Mark Barbosa, 7th Sus. Bde. commander, met with Iraqi government, military and tribal leaders to celebrate the combined effort between Iraqi and Coalition Forces to improve clean water production.
Within the past two months, the Eustis-based brigade has worked with Dhi Qar officials to refurbish two reverse osmosis water purification units within the province.
Barbosa and the local dignitaries were given a short demonstration of the facility along with its basic features. The ROWPU, which has an overhead delivery system to rapidly fill water trucks, is capable of producing 700 gallons of clean water per hour.
Resan Meqdad, the mayor of nearby Ur who initiated the project with 7th Sus. Bde. leaders, said the assistance was sorely needed. He recalled how previously many children drank directly from canals resulting in a number of health problems.
"The water system here was so bad," said Meqdad through a translator. "People could not get fresh water for drinking . . . it could not be used for consumption."
Meqdad said the Sustainment Soldiers' work on the water purification systems was greatly appreciated. "We are so happy and this will give (citizens) more high spirits," he said. "We hope this project can lead to more advanced, bigger projects."
Local Iraqi enthusiasm over the project was matched only be the ingenuity of their U.S. partners. New Orleans native Chief Warrant Officer Chris Gauthreaux, a member of the brigade's civil-military operations office, served as lead engineer. While normally serving as a marine engineering officer aboard Army watercrafts, Gauthreaux used his unique skills to troubleshoot and restore existing units - proving more cost-effective than buying new systems. Gauthreaux stated small measures like the purification unit help curtail suffering for the Iraqi people.
The purification unit is one in a series of 7th Sus. Bde. initiatives designed to build Iraqi civil capacity while also contributing to overall security. "Our goal is to build viable systems that add value to the local communities and strengthen the Iraqi governing systems so we can eventually leave," Barbosa said. "We want to go home but we can't do that until the Iraqi government is stabilized and has a full handle on things."