News: Local leaders finding solutions at Adhamiyah District Advisory Council
Story by Spc. Elvyn Nieves
By Spc. Elvyn Nieves
113th Mobile Public Affairs
BAGHDAD – Representatives from neighborhoods throughout the Adhamiyah District got together for a District Advisory Council meeting, Nov. 6, providing an opportunity for all the Sunni and Shia sheiks from the district to work on problems affecting the community.
"It's a very big deal because we're bringing the Sunni and the Shia sheiks together for the first time to talk about the political situation within Adhamiyah itself," said military transition training team chief Lt. Col. Edwin Fiske, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. "So they come together and work on solutions that affect the life of Iraqi citizens."
Among the topics discussed were reconciliation between the Shia and Sunni. The Iraqi military also gave a briefing on the Iraqi security volunteer program.
Fiske, a native of Gary, Ind., said the ISV program takes local volunteers from communities and helps train them to work as security guards at gas stations, schools, hospitals and wherever needed.
"It's similar to the community watch program we have back in the States," said Fiske. "What they would like to do is to take people in this program and eventually make them Iraqi police officers. At some point they get to go to the academy and get their badge."
Iraqi generals also briefed representatives on the security situation in Adhamiyah.
"It's very helpful to bring these leaders together since this is only the second time we've got the Sunni and the Shia Sheiks to sit down together," said Fiske.
The Iraqi military and coalition forces functioned as facilitators in this meeting providing a neutral ground for them to meet. Part of the problem was Sunni sheiks didn't feel comfortable going into the Shia neighborhood to meet the Shia and vice versa.
Fiske said the military wants the sheiks to do all the talking and that the coalition only gave an initial push to get it started but the Iraqis are taking over. The military is stepping back and letting the civilian and local government function.
"The coalition forces and Iraqi security forces work very closely with the neighborhood's council sheiks, but what we have not done is meet them with more frequency in a district advisory council. That is important since the district advisory council represents the city," said Fayetteville, N.C., native, Lt. Col Wilson Shoffner, commander of 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
Fiske said he's seen significant improvement at the DAC meetings.
"I have seen progress," he said. "Definitely, the government is now starting to carry the load more and taking away the burden from the military."