By Sgt. Dustin Roberts , 2nd HBCT PAO, 1st Inf. Div., MND-BJune 22, 2009
BAGHDAD - When the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team "Dagger," 1st Infantry Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad arrived in Iraq in October 2008, the brigade brought a vision of peace for the population of northwest Baghdad and Abu Ghraib.
The brigade's first priority was to work with the Iraqi Security Forces to secure the population and provide safety and confidence to the people.
This enabled the next undertaking of planned and controlled projects intended to stimulate the local economy.
Decision makers in the brigade work closely with the people and the Iraqi Government to assist in improving the quality of life throughout the area in which the brigade operates.
An embedded Provisional Reconstruction Team, a group of military and civilian experts in governance, political science and economic development, guide the brigade leadership in a close partnership in joint efforts to repair schools, illuminate streets with the newest solar technology, build water treatment facilities and remove trash and sewage from neighborhoods.
"Our main mission here is to help improve the security situation in our assigned area of operations," said Col. Joseph Martin, a native of Dearborn, Mich., commander, 2nd HBCT. "Along with direct security operations against former special group criminals, we are also working closely with our own ePRT to reduce violence in the area by executing civil capacity improvement projects with our partners."
The preparations behind the projects require in-depth planning and calculations from the minds of many officials in the brigade, the U.S. Government and the local Iraqi officials.
Each project begins with a memorandum of agreement by the government of Iraq, approving of each partnered project. Officials ensure the lights meet GoI specifications and the main components of each light fixture have warrantees for five to 20 years.
The solar light projects alleviate the stress on the national power grid and keep markets open later in the evening due to increased security. Brigade officials estimate the lights have increased electricity availability by 57 percent. Civilians in northwest Baghdad now receive 10-14 hours of electricity every day.
"In the areas where the lights are installed there is increased economic growth because the shops stay open later," said Lt. Col. Todd Auld, civil-military operations officer, 2nd HBCT. "People also feel safer to shop at night when it's cooler because of well-lit areas."
The brigade's Commander Emergency Response Program, which helps fund civil capacity projects, has also relieved pressure from the national power grid.
There are 49 micro-generation projects the GoI and the Dagger Brigade have completed or are working on to provide power to Baghdad.
Along with resolving some of the electricity problems in Baghdad, the Dagger Brigade and its counterparts are working with the Baghdad Department of Public Works, to remove sewage from Baghdad and Abu Ghraib's streets in 11 projects.
Sewer repair is a priority for Baghdad, as the antiqued Iraqi sewer system lacked needed maintenance in the past.
The brigade's non-lethal efforts go beyond projects like solar lights and sewage removal. It also focuses on micro-grants for small business; intended to aid entrepreneurs and establish their business to further benefit the Iraqi people and their economy.
"Applying for a grant is an extensive process, but worth it. The grants average $2,500 to $5,000," said Auld. "The personnel who grant the money are required to thoroughly interview applicants and consistently conduct checks to ensure businesses are legitimate."
With the security of the population first in mind, the Dagger Brigade continues to assist in Iraqi civil capacity.
"The people of Iraq are very important to us," said Martin. "As security is maintained in the brigade's operational environment, we will do our best to work with our Iraqi partners to make the lives of Iraqis better."