By U.S. ArmyJuly 9, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq (Army News Service, July 9, 2007) - On April 10, Soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts started clearing a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad's Fadhl area. It began as a routine mission, but soon turned into a bloody firefight that lasted five hours and resulted in 14 wounded U.S. troops and scores of unknown enemy dead and wounded.
But that was then. Just a few short months later, Soldiers from the 1st "Red Devil" Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C., operating as part of the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Infantry Brigade, drove into the heart of Fadhl July 5 delivering truckloads of food rations, medical supplies and water to the residents.
Soon after the April firefight, leaders from the Iraqi Army's 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, called a meeting with Fadhl leaders.
"The IA asked the residents what they needed and how they could help, instead of constant fighting," said Maj. Mike Pratt, Red Devil's operations officer.
Like most Iraqis, they needed essential services. "They wanted their hospital running, electricity and jobs for the people," Maj. Pratt said.
Lt. Col. Carl Alex, commander, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, directed a three-week trash-removal project that meant jobs for 200 villagers. The Al Tawan Hospital also received a 250-kilowatt generator, and 10 water drums have been installed to provide clean water.
The leader of the neighborhood told Lt. Col. Alex: "We didn't play it right and made a mistake. Our people found themselves neglected by everybody and the improvements and partnership that Ahdamiyah now shares, is something we want, as well. This is a great lesson for us and we are now extending our hand, to shake the hand of the U.S. Forces to work together."
Supplies dropped off to thrilled residents included hundreds of blankets, food packets for more than 1,000 families, thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies and a truck full of bottled water. Residents - young and old - helped carry the supplies inside the medical facility.
"This is the first tangible aid the residents have ever seen," said Capt. Thomas Delaney, battalion S-5 officer. "The set of meetings really broke the ice and ever since, violence has decreased significantly. The generator will really help the people, as well."
The Fadhl area is one of the oldest and poorest neighborhoods in the Iraqi capital, with 300-year-old buildings still in use today. The narrow, twisting roads can be used as lookout points by insurgents to spot approaching vehicles or people, and are often a breeding ground for snipers and militia activity.
(Maj. Sean Ryan writes for the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Public Affairs.)