News: Provincial reconstruction team in Dhi Qar helps Iraq help itself
Story by Spc. Darryl Montgomery
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq — The provincial reconstruction team is putting the new specialized training facility in Iraq's Dhi Qar province to good use by helping Iraq help itself through teaching fundamental skills to local citizens.
These skills include teaching literacy to Iraqi Soldiers so they will be able to read and write their language, certifying English teachers and educating farmers to enhance the local economy through agriculture, according to the Dhi Qar PRT team leader, Anna Prouse.
"One of the main goals we have here is to build capacity of the province," she said. "So, by building this training center, which is built on an Iraqi base, we are helping the province by teaching the locals how to continue to perform tasks that allow them to get the most out of their resources."
In the past year, the PRT has taught students how to produce buffalo milk and how to use everything in the milk so nothing goes to waste. They are currently teaching their students how to process dates from the palm trees flourishing throughout Iraq to create syrup, much like maple syrup.
Honey is also produced at the school which, according to Prouse, is a surprise to many locals in the area, because they didn't know bees could survive in the harsh environment of Iraq.
Once students learn how to process these food products, the PRT teaches them how to package them so they can eventually start exporting the products, which will help build the Iraqi economy, she said.
The students are dedicated to learning everything they can from the PRT, Prouse said.
"One day, the electricity went out and instead of going home and cooling off," said Prouse, "the students stayed in the hot school to continue learning."
One area of the school she has seen the most dedication in is the literacy program, which is designed to teach the Iraqi soldiers how to read and write Arabic.
"They are very enthusiastic about learning," she said. "They come in early and stay late to talk to the tutors for extra help, all because they want to be able to be in the army and serve their country."
According to Prouse, the Iraqi army has made it mandatory for all soldiers to know how to read and write in order to serve.
"Because our program has been so successful, the school will begin expanding and begin medical training starting in October," she added. "Surgeons and other medical professionals will come in and train the students in that field."
Brig. Gen. Jerry Lang, Multi-National Division - South deputy commanding general of support, met with the Provincial Reconstruction Development Committee and discussed the success of the school and other projects the PRT is assisting the local populace with.
"One of the things we are looking for are projects that fall in our projection plan," said Lang. "(These are) projects that improve central services and create jobs that will continue to help Iraq long after we have returned home."
"We are willing to look at anything and help you with it," he said concerning the projects. "You have our commitment that we will continue to support you and the PRT with these projects."