Thursday, February 7, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 7 Feb 2008

From MNF-I, Coalition, Iraqi Army Bring the Heat, Fuel Iraqi Fires.

BAGHDAD — When the joint patrol arrived in Saydiyah, there was already a crowd of more than 150 families waiting for kerosene, Jan. 31. On this momentous occasion, Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from Company A, 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, along with policemen from 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police (NP) Division, distributed the fuel to the neighborhood’s residents for the first time since September.

The distribution was important for the residents since Iraqis primarily use kerosene to provide heat for their homes as well as cooking.

The local residents lined up hours before so they could receive the fuel, said Capt. Benjamin Fielding, of Youngstown, Ohio, who is the A Co. commander.

“You can tell these people really needed this precious resource,” Fielding said. “Some of the locals have told me they came out to get a place in line as early as 5:30 a.m. this morning.”

The NP helped keep order so the thousands of people who made their way through the line could get their kerosene.

Iraqi Lt. Basher, the NP platoon leader, worked well with the locals and was able to relate to their concerns by using his troops, as well as local leaders, to keep the crowd orderly and the operation running smoothly.

First Lt. Aaron Hall, the patrol leader who conducted the joint patrol with the NPs, was responsible for securing the site for the kerosene issue and said the event was a good way to get in touch with the people in Saydiyah.

“Every time we conduct a mission like this, we get positive feedback from the community,” he said. “We always have citizens asking us for phone numbers, which they call later to report extremists in their neighborhoods. They obviously want to see conditions improve.”

Lt. Col. Johnnie Johnson, a Tampa, Fla., native, and the commander of Task Force 4-64, arrived with Staff Brig. Gen. Baha, the 5th Battalion, 2nd Iraqi National Police Brigade commander, to see how the operation was going.

When they arrived, some of the citizens voiced concerns about their ration cards or explained reasons why they were not currently in possession of rations cards.

Baha promptly explained to the crowd that without a rations card, people could not receive their allotted 100 liters of Kerosene but would still receive 20 liters, which should be enough to get them by as they rectify their issues with the ration cards.

“This is the first time in months this type of operation has occurred, so it is expected there will be some administrative challenges, such as this issue with ration cards,” Johnson said. “Despite minor challenges, this is a very positive outcome because the citizens were told they would receive kerosene on Thursday – and it is here. That builds trust and confidence.”

The Tuskers and the NP returned the following day with another shipment of kerosene for the Families who did not receive any the day prior.

The “Tuskers” of 4th Bn., 64th Armor Regt., are a 3rd Infantry Division unit, stationed out of at Fort Stewart, Ga., and are currently attached to Task Force Dragon.