By Lt. j.g. Christopher Deluzio, 4th BCT, 1st ADOctober 20, 2009
COB ADDER, Iraq (Oct. 20, 2009) -- Task Force Pathfinder has sponsored more than 30 projects in Iraq's southern Muthanna province over the past several months, many providing water and power to impoverished villages.
The Muthanna province is a vast area, sparsely populated and dominated by wide expanses of desert. Life here remains much the same as it has for centuries. Bedouin tribes herd camels while subsistence farmers scratch out a living in the harsh landscape.
The people of Muthanna are particularly hard hit by geography, living near the end of river flows obstructed further north by dams constructed under the regime of Saddam Hussein and never restored to their former glory. Access to clean water, reliable power and health care have been in short supply.
Through cooperation between the provincial government, the U.S. State Department-led Provincial Reconstruction Team and Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, known as Task Force Pathfinder, the basic needs of Muthanna citizens are now slowly being met.
Task Force Pathfinder incorporates civilian experts, professional engineers and civil affairs units as it works hand-in-hand with the PRTs to develop projects and training programs to help the Iraqis deliver critical services to their people. In Muthanna, the focus has been providing essential services.
"These programs serve two purposes. First, they reduce the number of waterborne diseases we are seeing among the children," said Lt. Col. Michael Eastman, TF Pathfinder commander. "Second, by helping the elected Iraqi officials deliver basic needs to their people, we reduce the incentive of dissatisfied locals to oppose both American and Iraqi forces in the area."
Reception by the people of Muthanna has been overwhelmingly positive. In areas where life was a daily struggle for existence, clean water is now available for both drinking and irrigating once-dry fields.
"Getting out among the people has been a great experience," said Sgt. Hugh Gunnerson, from Cannonsburg, Pa. "We can see the benefit of our mission in Iraq when people have something Americans sometimes take for granted, like clean water to drink."
Soldiers of Task Force Pathfinder assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, are deployed from Fort Bliss, Texas, to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces in Muthanna province and collaborate with provincial reconstruction teams to fulfill requests for essential services from the government of Iraq.
While this mission is different from what most of these artillerymen from Fort Bliss, Texas, expected to perform, they have adapted. Much remains to be done in Muthanna, but with this sort of close cooperation between Iraqis, PRTs and Soldiers of Task Force Pathfinder, progress is being made in southern Iraq.
(Lt. j.g. Christopher Deluzio is serving with Task Force Pathfinder, 4th BCT, 1st Armored Division at Contingency Operating Base Adder in Muthanna Province.)