May 1, 2008 —
FOB ISKAN, Iraq (May 2, 2008) – Residents in Abu Shemsi in the North Babil province of Iraq continue to see improvements in security and economic development.
The former al-Qaida stronghold is quickly becoming a rural community with soccer games, flourishing farm fields and locally-run stores.
“I see the community rebuilding itself,” said Sgt. Donald Callis, a Gerrardstown, W.V., native. “Our major role in that is providing security, and the (government of Iraq) is helping out with grants.”
In recent weeks, coalition forces have worked with local businesses to find out what equipment they need to improve serving their communities. With this knowledge, coalition forces are able to request additional funds and help stimulate economic capacity in the region, said Callis, who is with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Callis said his mission during his last deployment focused more on raids.
“This is my sixth deployment,” he said. “This is my first time actually interacting with the locals. You are able to see subtle changes in the civilians and you can tell if they are benefiting or if something is wrong.”
Additionally, over the past few months, coalition forces have seen new canals dug, water pumps installed, and farming equipment used to plow fields. These improvements have resulted from funding by the U.S. and Iraqi governments.
A new brick factory in Abu Shemsi supplies locally-produced building materials to families for home or business renovations.
With locally-operated businesses, the area of Abu Shemsi is slowly moving toward a self-sustaining economy based on agriculture and fish farming.
“The recent progress is due to a combination of the people of Iraq wanting to help themselves and coalition forces being able to help the communities by providing a safe environment,” said Sgt. Christopher Waliser from Bismark, N.D.
During the al-Qaida stronghold, many Abu Shemsi residents were displaced. Others fled because of the lack of security and protection.
The support that Iraqi security forces and coalition forces provide, has given local citizens more opportunities to come back and rebuild, said Waliser. Families can reopen businesses and return to farming for income.
“They need some type of council to serve as their voice and they need to work together more than ever now to see the results they want,” said Staff Sgt. Cale Terrill from Wapakoneta, Ohio.
There has also been talk of building an Iraqi police station in the area, Terrill said. Bringing in the IP will further legitimize the area and show residents that the government of Iraq cares about them.