By Robyn Baer, Fort Sill CannoneerOctober 17, 2008
It's not often that Soldiers work for the State Department, but one of Fort Sill's own did and is receiving an award for the work he did as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Madison will receive a Department of State Superior Honor Award Oct. 24 at Fort Sill.
Madison was assigned to Fort Sill in May of 2007, but spent only a brief time here before deploying for a year-long tour in Iraq with the State Department.
Now that he has returned, he is being put to good use in the Joint and Combined Integration Directorate with non-lethal fires. But, just what does that mean'
"For me, I'm kind of the interagency integrator," Madison said. "Because of my PRT experience, I work with the Department of State and some of the other agencies within the U.S. government. I'm trying to go out and find opportunities for them to do joint training with us and for us to integrate some of the things we're doing with them."
Madison said he sought out the position with a PRT because of his business background. He has a master's degree in business from Syracuse University. He was chosen to deploy as an individual augmentee as part of the State Department's surge, which coincided with the Department of Defense surge in Iraq. He became part of a satellite PRT in one of the seven districts in the Salah ad Din Province, north of Baghdad. Madison was responsible for two districts, Balad and ad Dejayl, the two southern districts of the province.
As a PRT member, it was his role to work with governance-capacity building and economic development.
He said economic development was his first focus because building the local economy would go hand-in-hand with governance capacity.
Iraqis talking to Iraqis
One of the best projects that Madison kick started, the U.S. didn't spend a penny on.
"I wanted to start a greenhouse project the whole time I was there," Madison said.
The State Department was willing to fund it, but finding the right people was the problem.
"I came across a guy who had the land and the money, but he just didn't know what the current technology was," he explained. "I (knew) an agriculture engineer. ... We got them together, and they're building these huge greenhouses. They're building four right now as prototypes to see which one's the best, and then they're going to build 40 of their own to grow stuff year round right across the street from (a food processing) factory. Then they're going to build them and sell them to other Iraqis."
Madison said the lack of networking is one of the real problems facing Iraq's economy. So while some may have the means and others the knowledge, the two may never meet. He said introducing the right people to each other and starting a network of business people was central to building the Iraqi economy.
Kick starting the economy
The canning factory was kind of the hub because it's like having oil but having no refinery," he said. "It's an agriculture economy, but you have to have a processing plant because you can't sell it all fresh because it just won't last. You've got to process it and ship it all over the country and maybe eventually export it."
The State Department knew the factory could promote stability in the region, but was it feasible'
Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq, so the country became a closed economy where the government owned all the industry, and Iraqi industries basically fed each other.
"Things you made in your factory were inputs to my factory, and I sold things to you, so it was not a free-market economy," Madison said. "So, anything we did needed to be in the direction of a free market economy so it could be competitive with its neighbors Iran, Syria, Jordan and then the greater Middle East area.
The food processing plant was built in 1974, and it was a state-owned enterprise. Over time it was sold to a private owner. Before it stopped production, it had about 11 product lines, all of which were profitable.
"This thing was making money, but it wasn't very modern; it hadn't been maintained well," he said.
At its peak of production, the factory was employing about 1,100 people inside the factory and perhaps as many as 10,000 when you count farmers and shippers and transporters. The factory was thriving and supporting the local economy. But the factory ceased production in September of 2006 when 14 Shia from inside the city of Balad were kidnapped and taken into a Sunni area, where they were executed.
"That day a huge wave of violence went through the area," Madison explained. "That very day the factory closed because it was sitting in that area between the Shia city and the Sunni rural area, so nobody could get to it. The violence across the whole country kind of peaked at that same time, too, so it was tough to get things transported to the factory, so it closed."
The factory was raided a few times by American Soldiers, and mother nature also took its toll on the building.
One of Madison's primary goals, other than governance, was to see if the State Department could get the factory started. He met with the owner on numerous occasions and over time developed a business plan.
"All his records had been lost, looted, stolen, so determining how much output a given factory line could give, we had to kind of estimate that; we had to estimate the costs so we could determine if a line was profitable," Madison said.
That was where his master's degree helped; he used his business development knowledge to create a business proposal together and got a U.S. aid organization interested in the project. The rest is history.
The factory is up and running with three of the planned lines water, juice and chips, the three easiest to get started. Other lines that will stimulate the local economy are being planned. The infrastructure, the boilers and generators, has been repaired. The local government also replaced a transformer next to the factory so when an electrical grid gets up and running in Iraq, they'll be connected to that grid.
Madison said the factory employs about 300 employees right now, and the number of people outside the factory is probably five times that easily. There are some wholesale produce markets around the factory that the factory helped reopen, and one of those employs about 300 people.
The factory is putting people to work in significant numbers, he said.
"If those farmers are working on their farms, they're not out doing other things like planting (improvised explosive devices) or just generally causing trouble like young military-aged males do when they're not kept busy," he said.
With the factory feeding into other local businesses, Madison said he knew that creating civic organizations to support the community would be important, and it was one of his main objectives as a PRT member.
Madison was a senior advisor to the district mayors and administrators. Balad had four subdistricts; each one of them had a city council.
"I worked with those councils on improving their relationship between the district and the subdistrict and then the district and the province, just getting them to communicate because this is kind of new to them," he said.
He said understanding his role as an advisor was crucial to building independance among the Iraqi leaders he worked with.
"It's the approach you take," Madison explained. "If you understand your role as an advisor, you're there to give advice. You're not there to be the governor, you're there to advise the governor. It may sound like a very small difference, but it's huge in the way that it comes across."
He said getting the Iraqi leaders to make the decisions rather than making them himself was very important to the Iraqi leaders gaining independance and continuing to make decisions once he was gone.
"As an advisor, at the end of the day I'm telling you, 'This is what I think. This is what I encourage you to consider, but you're going to have to make the decision and you're going to have to live with the consequences.'"
Another thing Madison focused on was developing civil society organizations, the American equivalent to a nonprofit organization. Before leaving Fort Sill on his deployment, he attended a Comanche County Commissioners meeting and a Chamber of Commerce meeting to better understand how Americans govern on the local level.
"I tried to start five new civic organizations just to get people seeing that 'Hey, you can have more to say about what's going on in your community as a civic activist than just sitting back at home complaining about why things are the way they are,'" Madison said.
He focused on agriculture, business, family, health and education. He said the hard part was getting the groups started and finding the right people to be the initial members of the groups. He said he learned that five organizations was a lot to take on at one time.
"I got them all started, but some are more developed than others. The business council is the best. It's moving out and doing well," he said. "Each one has it's own personality ... and if only one of them makes it, then to me it's a success because you've got the flavor of a volunteer organization doing good things for the community, and then they can go from there."
Madison said the civil society organizations get Iraqis involved in their community, and it's issues based.
"If you're serving as a member of the board of directors or you're a member who's engaging the board of directors, you're teaching through that civil society organization a little miniature governing body," he explained. "So more people are getting experienced in governing, and they're going to be able to, when election time comes up, they might step forward and run for office at the local level whereas before they would have sat back and been silent. It gives more people a voice in the community."
He said those organizations, which bring people in and give them a voice, help diffuse conflict before it even gets started or helps people reconcile.
"These civil society organizations help reduce conflict or prevent it from happening because they're engaging each other on a daily basis outside of their normal circles that they would normally operate in," he said.
Not only did the civic organizations build governance experience, they became part of the value chain. The business council is helping develop new businesses that will feed into or be outputs for the factory.
"For example, they currently import the containers to put the tomato paste and other products in," Madison said. "Maybe they could start a small factory that makes those right there in that same community. The Agriculture Council is part of that value chain because they can teach farmers new techniques, the latest science of taking care of soil, drip tape irrigation, handling of crops after you pick them. ... The family council is tied into the factory because I made a deal with the factory owner that he would hire people recommended by the family council. ... They're all kind of tied together and that was part of my initial strategy versus just randomly deciding to do things."
Madison said both governance-capacity building and economic development help Iraqis win the fight against terrorists.
He said the center of gravity for a counter-insurgency is the people.
"There's a struggle, and the tension is between the people in the middle, the government that's trying to build legitimacy on one side, and the insurgency on the other," he explained. "The more you empower the people and increase legitimacy of the government, it pushes the insurgency away. It weakens it. They have less support."
The insurgency survives through active and passive support of the people, Madison said. As long as the people allow them to move through their areas freely and not report on their activity, there aren't enough Soldiers to get the type of reporting needed. When they see that insurgents moving through their area is affecting their economy, their participation in governance, and their security, and they see that an organization like the PRT is there to help them, then they're going to cooperate with the PRT and not the insurgents, Madison said.
"That's the way you win an insurgency," he said. "It's not killing people that wins counter-insurgency; it's reducing the influence of the insurgents to the point where they either go away or they stop what they're doing and participate in the government through peaceful means. A reconciliation."