CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- Representatives from ministries within the government of Iraq held the first meeting of the Taji qada's Joint Rural Planning Committee in Baghdad with the Baghdad Provincial Governor's office and Taji qada (a Baghdad rural district council) officials Dec. 12.

The directors general of the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture attended the meeting along with Fakher Najem Abdullah, the Taji Quaim Makam (equivalent to a city district manager in the U.S.); Subhai Mashadani, the rural services committee chairman and Radhy Ja'afer Muhssin, the director of the qada's Sab Al Bor, Iraq nahiyah (similar to a neighborhood council) were a few of the guest speakers.

Some of the topics for the first meeting included such things as road projects, agriculture, essential services such as water and sewer projects, education and the construction of schools along with the budgets that make those projects possible.

Senior leaders from the 1st "Ironhorse Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division to include Lt. Col. Kevin MacWatters, commander, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, along with the brigade's embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, ePRT Baghdad 5, were on hand to support the meeting. Leaders from the Provincial Reconstruction Team-Baghdad and the Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also attended the JRPC.

According to Anchorage, Alaska native Col. Mike Bridges, governance group advisor for ePRT Baghdad-5, the JPRC is an outgrowth of the Joint Planning Committee which began 18 months ago for the city districts in Baghdad. The JPRC is intended for the six rural qadas (rural districts) to receive the same visibility and support from the central government ministries in the Baghdad Provincial government as the city districts receive.

"The Joint Rural Planning Committee's primary goal is to coordinate and deconflict projects between government of Iraq entities such as ministries and other levels of government using their own budgets while also working with Coalition Forces and agencies," said Bridges.

For the past five months, ePRT Baghdad 5 has been working with local governments in the qadas in the Ironhorse area of operations through a mentorship program that involves bi-cultural bi-lingual Iraqi instructors teaching the local government officials an understanding of the concepts of governance to include everything from how to fund and provide essential services as well as how to manage and allocate a budget.

"Taji was put forward as the first (qada to hold a JRPC meeting) because we felt it was the most developed of the qadas since beginning the local government training program in mid-July," added Bridges. "They in fact presented a well-developed 2008 project budget request to the provincial council in late November and (this first meeting) was an opportunity for it to be publicly presented to the larger group."

The meeting marked the first of what will become a biweekly program where different qada representatives present information in a shared environment.

"The goal will be to coordinate construction and reconstruction projects and to lead toward all levels of government in Iraq preparing, funding and completing their own infrastructure programs and public services," said Bridges.