CAMP TAJI, Iraq - "There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears shed in order to make this market safe," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Lien, who returned to the Taji market, Sept. 10, a place he knew all too well during his last deployment, here. "A lot has changed in the short time we were gone."

Lien serves as the civil capacity and essential services officer for the 1st "Dragon" Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, a duty much different than serving as a senior cavalry scout in a maneuver troop, the duty he performed in this very market during his last rotation.

"Last tour we patrolled one of the most dangerous places in all of Iraq," explained Lien, who spent the bulk of his previous 15-month deployment battling the insurgency that was common in Taji. "There were snipers and IEDs (improvised explosive device) all around this market before. Now the residents walk up and down a bustling marketplace with hundreds of restaurants, shops, and small businesses. The people here are happy and are continuing a sense of normalcy on a day to day basis."

Lien visited the market to evaluate the progress of a public works project that he oversees. The project, with a Taji area contractor, faced many road blocks well before Lien assumed it. Since Lien has taken charge the project continues to make progress.

"Forty percent of the work is done, a couple weeks ago when we came here I couldn't say the same," said Lien, who added that the goal of repainting all market buildings is complete.

To complete the project, arrangements to rid the market of trash and debris are currently being made.

"The hardest challenge is eliminating the malingering that led the contract to become overdue originally," explained Lien, who has already seen progress in a project he's only overseen for two weeks.

The changes and overall progression of the market became more apparent as Lien and Soldiers from the "Dragon" personal security detachment walked the market.

"Last tour we spent a lot of time battling the militants who made Taji such a dangerous place," said Chicago, Ill. native, Sgt. Stephen Hale, a team leader assigned to the "Dragon" PSD, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Batt., 82nd FA Regt., 1st BCT. "It's a good feeling to come back and see a complete turn-around in the area."

For these U.S. troops, the Taji market is proof that years of hard work fostered historic changes within the country. The market provides a personal sense of pride for the "Dragons". The Soldiers understand there is still work to be done as they continue to focus on public works projects and providing the essential services to the people of Iraq.