By 2nd Lt. Josh Risher, 1BCT, 1CD PAOMay 18, 2009
BAGHDAD-The town of Boob al-Sham's economy has seen a healthy change in the few weeks since Soldiers of 1st "Garryowen" Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and Iraqi police from 2nd Battalion, 1st National Police Division, removed a series of large barrier walls from an industrial area near the Baghdad-Diyala highway in northeast Baghdad.
Until recently, much of western Boob al-Sham was not visible from the highway. Coalition forces erected a series of concrete walls along the road during the height of sectarian violence in 2007. The intent was to prevent terrorists from placing improvised explosive devices near the road. The barriers successfully hindered terrorist activities but unexpectedly proved to be troublesome to businesses located throughout the community.
Western Boob al-Sham is a manufacturing district that produces finished goods, many of which are sold locally or shipped to Baghdad for distribution to markets. Decreased visibility caused by the wall not only gave the area a blighted appearance but made it difficult for the businesses to attract customers and receive goods needed for production.
The newly re-established factory owners' association played a pivotal role in the removal of the walls. Although thankful for the security improvements since the increased violence of 2007, the association approached "Garryowen" with the idea of removing the walls. The squadron moved swiftly after the request was formally made to meet the needs of the association and the community.
"I knew that they were going to ask us about getting rid of this wall," said Capt. Chris Manglimot, the operations officer for "Garryowen". "It was not a surprise to me when they brought up the subject."
Within a couple weeks the squadron hired local contractors to remove the barriers. Troopers from Apache Troop provided security at the site while crane operators, working for a local contractor, loaded the barriers onto flatbed trucks. The barriers were then transported to Hussaniyah as part of a project to strengthen security at a National Police checkpoint.
"The neighborhood looks better now," said Alla Ouday, son of a local business owner. "Before it looked like a prison. The neighbors are much happier now."
Increased visibility and the free flow of traffic have made big difference for their business. Ouday estimates their sales have increased by at least fifty percent over the last month. They have been able to attract new customers because potential clientel can see the business and drive directly to their location.
Jamal Abbas, owner of a metal shop, has a different reason for wanting the walls removed.
"Before I had to take a taxi or get a ride to work," said Abbas. "Now it is also much easier for me to bring my delivery truck in and out; before I had to take a much longer way around."
Abbas' shop is only a few blocks from the highway, but the town's narrow streets can make it difficult to negotiate a large vehicle like his delivery truck. Now he can save time and fuel by travelling a more direct route.
It may not seem like a lot was done in Boob al-Sham, but the removal of the barriers has brought a needed economic boost to the community and improved its appearance at the same time.