Sunday, January 6, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 6 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Soldiers Provide Humanitarian Aid for Iraqis in Need.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE — The Soldiers of 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., have seen their share of combat since deploying to Iraq in April. Raids, clearing operations and air assaults are what these combat Soldiers have prepared for and are executing daily in their new area of operation, Diyala province.

But the Soldiers of 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment played a different role at Forward Operating Base Warhorse during a humanitarian aid mission to assist the citizens of northern Hashmiyat.

“This was the first humanitarian mission my platoon has run,” said Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sekishiro, 2nd Platoon sergeant, Troop C, 2-1 Cav. “We have been doing a lot of missions lately with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police; not necessarily humanitarian missions, but assisting them in providing their own security in their towns and villages.”

Northern Hashmiyat was recently controlled by al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI). Troop C kept a heavy presence in the area, but since 4th Stryker Brigade’s move into Diyala, the AQI presence in Hashmiyat has been diminishing.

The Concerned Local Citizen (CLC) groups began taking over responsibility of the security in the area. CLC checkpoints arose around the villages. CLC groups are like a Neighborhood Watch program in the United States.

“We used to provide a heavy presence there,” Sekishiro said. “But the CLCs have been successful at providing their own security for the past month.”

Last month 2nd Platoon escorted a convoy of CLC trucks from the village of Hashmiyat back to FOB Warhorse. Once back on Warhorse, the CLC trucks were loaded with 10,000 pounds of rice, 10,000 pounds of flour and 180 litters of cooking oil.

“The CLC checkpoints in northern Hashmiyat distribute the food to the local villages in the area,” Shekishiro said.

“It’s common for Iraqis to make bread every morning,” said Ali Mustafa Abu Asah, a leader in the CLC organization of Hashmiyat. “The rice helps nourish our people and we use the oil over the rice.”

Working side by side with the Iraqis helped build relationships, as well.

“We had fun doing it,” said Spc. Christopher Nollenberg of 2nd Platoon. “We taught them a few English words and they taught us a few Iraqi words.”

“Relationships are key when working with the CLCs,” he added. “If we don’t have good relations, they aren’t going to give us information in order for us to do our job.”

“We are very grateful to the Coalition forces for this food,” Abu Asah said. “We are trying to work with Coalition forces in order to keep our villages and roads secure from al-Qaida.”

Although a change from the daily combat operations, missions like these could prove to be just as fruitful.

“Hopefully, they will see that we are trying to help them, and hopefully they will try to help us,” Nollenberg said. “This is my first HA (humanitarian assistance) drop. It’s a good change of pace. We can’t be out there chasing the bad guys all of the time. Sometimes, we have to help the people in other ways. Hopefully, they will see that we are trying to help them and they will help us catch more bad guys.”