News: Conference reviews progress, looks ahead to provincial success in Iraq
Story by Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Military and provincial leaders responsible for reconstruction efforts in North Babil participated in a brigade-level Civil Military Operations Conference Oct. 16 and 17, 2008.
The meeting comes 12 months into the deployment of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, giving its civil affairs representatives a chance to reflect on accomplishments made over the past year. Using lessons learned, they will be able to pass on knowledge for their replacements to build upon in the future.
"Everything we do here is a continuum," said Maj. Kimberly Peeples, deputy team leader for the North Babil embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team. "I thought that was a real critical point that we all [know] this is a process and it's going to take awhile [with] a lot of people involved."
The North Babil ePRT, as it is often referred to, is a group embedded with military civil affairs to assist with rebuilding projects in the area. It brings stability to the local population by helping with construction projects, education, local economy and governance. The meeting offered the ePRT to meet with 4th BCT assets, members of the U.S. Agencies for International Development and the Corps of Engineers.
"We talked about today bringing that coordination closer," said Peeples, a native of Akron, Ohio. "The key is communication and coordination as we move forward in this vertical and horizontal kind of integration that all these agencies are doing."
The conference was split into two days to cover topics in both governance and economics. During this span, the parties involved discussed the Iraqi Government budget, project management, capacity building, the province's finances and funding, ongoing projects and contracting.
In order for that success and those projects to continue, the meeting allowed the current ePRT to communicate with the incoming civil affairs unit that will assume many of the ePRT's current responsibilities.
"The benefit [of this meeting] for me was to get situational awareness as to what the current operating picture for civil military operations looks like cross the entire brigade area," said Maj. Rich Brown, of Cortland, N.Y., civil affairs company commander of Company B, currently under the 403rd CA Battalion. "It allowed me to observe as an outsider the strengths and weaknesses, what they've accomplished and where they can go from here."
Brown's company will arrive in Babil in the coming months, and he said his future goal is to leave this area in even better condition than he receives it. For that flow to continue, it's important for his company to hit the ground running and continue the momentum already in place.
"We took a lot of lessons that we're now able to share with the next unit when they come and hopefully they can start at a higher level than [when] we came in," Peeples said. "They can't afford to have any gap. They need to be here ready to do this type of counterinsurgency, stability operations."
There are several major goals in place to help improve Babil's capacity-building efforts, but one stood out in particular. That is to help the Iraqi people help themselves. To accomplish this, Peeples has seen civil military units pass on their strengths to the provincial Iraqi leaders.
"At our level [the key] is just empowering the Iraqis and doing some basic things we know best, which are leadership, community development, decision making, you know, just some basic skills that the Army is really well poised to do," Peeples said.