CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Tribal sheiks joined members of the Government of Iraq ministries, officials in the Taji qada (district government council), Taji nahiyah representatives (neighborhood councils), senior ranking Iraqi Security Forces leaders and Coalition troops to open the Sab Al Bor Governance Center of Taji in Sab Al Bor, Iraq, Dec. 13.
The governance center offers the local populace access to government services offices which fall under the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works that include electricity, water, communications and education, as well as a post office.
The center also has under its purview two civilian health clinics that staff six doctors and maintain six ambulances, which serve a city that once had only one clinic and one doctor.
“We’re providing them capability they haven’t had, which is a single place for the people of Sab Al Bor to go where they can address issues and problems with regards to essential services and education; a place they can go where they expect to get some results,” said Lt. Col. Kevin MacWatters, commander of the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
MacWatters’ squadron has been working with Iraqi government officials and tribal sheiks along with the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division’s embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, ePRT Baghdad-5 and the 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion to aid in the reconstruction of infrastructure in Sab Al Bor.
“The visibility of this reopening and dedication of the new government center shows the local people and others in the (Baghdad) province that Sab Al Bor is ready to receive residents back home, and that the government is providing a place for them to go to receive government services of all types,” said Col. Mike Bridges, a government group advisor for ePRT Baghdad-5, who hails from Anchorage, Ala. “It is also a visible presentation that the community is returning to life.”
Sab Al Bor was formerly a retirement community, and at its peak had a population of nearly 65,000 residents. After sectarian violence erupted in the town in 2005 and early 2006, the population fell to 2,600; a level at which it stayed until six months ago.
According to Bridges, tribal sheiks, Iraqi Security Forces, Iraqi security volunteers, Concerned Local Citizens and Iraqi government officials at all levels working with troops from the 1st Sqd., 7th CAV, the Ironhorse Brigade ePRT, the 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion and Estonian troops have greatly improved security in the city, allowing for a transition from focusing mainly on security-related efforts to those involving the reconstruction of critical infrastructure and essential services.
“Now that the security situation has changed so dramatically, people are coming back in large numbers and the population today is anywhere from 25,000 to 28,000 people and growing daily,” said Bridges. “The government of Iraq has identified Sab Al Bor as a key city for the return of displaced persons, and as a model example of that program and the return to normalcy in a community that was once marred by violence.”