News: Soldiers, civilians build civil capacity
Story by Staff Sgt. Luke Koladish
AL KUT, Iraq - After U.S. combat forces have been out of cities for nearly three months, the Multi-National Corps-Iraq deputy commanding general said it was imperative that U.S. forces continue to support the improvement of civil capacity throughout Iraq.
"U.S. Forces will [help] the Iraqis in building infrastructure and developing essential services in order to improve their communities and achieve economic stabilization," Maj. Gen. James P. Hunt said.
He said service members and Department of Defense civilians are working diligently in the areas of civil capacity and reconstruction. The State Department is working through provincial reconstruction teams, made up primarily of civilians, to work directly with various government entities.
"They bring a great deal of experience and expertise, everything from city managers that are on a one-year sabbatical, to health department professionals and lawyers," Hunt explained. "They teach provincial councils how to govern, run a council meeting, execute a budget and listen to their constituents."
The deputy commanding general cited a number of examples of PRT successes. The Zaryland School in Dohuk will serve more than a 1,000 students and solar-powered water purification units in the rural villages of the Babil province are providing clean water to thousands of residents.
Hunt said the PRT in Basra is working with the 17th Fires Brigade along with provincial and city governments to alleviate water shortages brought on by extended drought.
In addition to the PRTs, Civil Affairs Soldiers are in the field to provide skills that may not be a part of the civilian team.
"For instance, we have a local politician, a city councilman in his civilian life, deployed here for a year as an Army colonel," Hunt added. "He's advising provincial councils how to operate."
There are farmers from Nebraska and Iowa, part of the National Guard or Reserve, out with the PRTs teaching Iraqis how to improve their irrigation ditches and re-sow fields with various crops to increase the harvest.
The first of the advisory and assistance brigades will partner with the Iraqi security forces as one its primary duties. They will also advise, assist and enable the PRT's as they build civil capacity, Hunt said.
"Whether it is civilians training Iraqis in civic action programs or a Civil Affairs team helping to improve health care in a province, we are establishing a long-term relationship at every level of society," he said.