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News | July 2, 2008

Funding improves Iraqi economy, infrastructure

By Travis Hayes 1st Lt., 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs

Work continues, June 24, on a bridge in Khidr, which is one of the 25 ongoing projects in 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment’s area of operation.
Work continues, June 24, on a bridge in Khidr, which is one of the 25 ongoing projects in 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment’s area of operation.

FOB ISKAN (July 3, 2008) — Coalition forces continue to help communities in Iraq shape the environment through project revitalization, grants, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

Currently, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment’s area of operation has 25 ongoing projects aimed at improving local economies and creating employment opportunities. Of those, 23 are enduring infrastructure projects totaling more than $2.5 million.

The majority of the funding is through the government of Iraq Commanders Emergency Response Program.

"(Iraqi citizens) consistently come up to us, thanking us for the new buildings and school renovations that we’ve been working on," said Staff Sgt. Michael Combs, 3-7th Inf. Regt. engineer noncommissioned officer-in-charge.

"It’s great to see the smiles on the Iraqi people’s faces after the completion of projects. Sheikhs tell us we’ve made the towns and cities here better than they ever were. It’s been very fulfilling to be a part of this," said Combs.

The Abu Lukah Civil Service Corps, one of the many newly established programs, is expected to begin operation within the next week. The CSC is an outlet for Sons of Iraq members to transition from manning checkpoints to developing skills that will enable them to work as skilled laborers.

The Abu Lukah CSC will identify more than 100 military-aged males to be apprentices. They will spend a year developing skill sets ranging from welding to construction.

After a year of training and testing, each trainee will receive a start-up tool kit for his assigned skill. This program will develop Iraqi citizens into skilled laborers, which will allow them to compete in their local towns and cities for contracts and become self-sufficient.

A second initiative, which awards micro grants to qualified start-up and pre-existing business owners, is positively impacting local economies. Thirty-two micro grants have been awarded through CERP funds.

"Once you achieve security, it’s all about creating conditions for employment and economic growth, and this is what we’re helping to do by jump-starting businesses and building town halls and civic centers," said 1st Lt. Allen Von Plinsky, 3-7th inf. Regt. engineer.

Project and bulk CERP funding and subsequent disbursement is managed by certified battalion project management teams. Trained project purchasing officers and pay agents are positioned down to the platoon level to maximize quality and control.