By Spc. Rebekah Lampman, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div.April 2, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - Baseel Ali, deputy director of agriculture for the Dhi Qar Province cut a red ribbon at the Nasiriyah Tree-Nursery to officially open the facility, March 26.
Just four months earlier, this location was an empty dirt and gravel lot. Today, it consists of two greenhouses used for planting vegetables and a fenced-off area for growing trees.
"This will support our province and will greatly benefit us," said the director of agriculture, Abdul Salih. "We thank the Americans for everything they've done."
The nursery can produce up to 50,000 vegetable and 4,000 tree seedlings each year. Once these seedlings reach their maximum growth, they're sold to local farmers.
"This is an incredibly rewarding position," said 1st Lt. Devens Vogt, civil capacity officer for 14th Engineer Battalion. "I feel it is a rare opportunity to be able to directly affect hundreds of thousands of people's lives on a daily basis."
The 14th Eng. Bn. partnered with the 555th Eng. Bn. to oversee the project, which was funded by the Commander's Emergency Response Program, a U.S. government-funded incentive to provide assistance to the Iraqis.
The two engineer battalions are also teaming up to build bee and date farms to produce honey and fruit next to the nursery.
"This is another way we can leave a proud and lasting impression," said Vogt, a native of Saxtons River, Vt. "We have to be able to foster a credible relationship with our young Iraqi Construction Engineers."
For the citizens of Nasiriyah, the nursery means more than just planting trees and vegetables; they're planting the hope of a better life in southern Iraq.