News: 'Black Lions' support Iraqi community with 'Good Neighbor Campaign'
Story by Spc. Shantelle Campbell
BALAD, Iraq — As U.S. forces continue to responsibly withdraw out of Iraq, more facilities run by the U.S. are being turned over to Iraqi locals.
Members of the Sons of Iraq and local sheiks gathered inside a conference room with the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan., for a signing ceremony, Jan. 7.
"A variety of contracts [were signed] for the bazaars that are ran on the Al Bakr Airfield, also known as Joint Base Balad," said Capt. Paul Thomas, of Baltimore, Md., commander of Company D, 1-28 Inf.
"This is an opportunity to continue the outreach from the base to the people of the community," Thomas said. "[It wil] give them the opportunity to have employment on the base, along with the positive influence and economic benefits of having this large base in their area."
The signing was in conjunction with Al Bakr Airfield's Good Neighbor Campaign Plan. The campaign plan provides working contracts to the local people in the airfield's surrounding communities.
"In the near term, this helps to employ local nationals; but, the money that spreads out in the community by going through a variety of local sheiks, directly benefits security and the general social situation," Thomas said. "[It will] help spread the word that we are not here as occupiers but as partners for Iraq's future."
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Eric Timmerman, "Black Lions" battalion commander, talked about the unit's plan to continue to work with its Iraqi partners in improving employment opportunities in Balad.
"Since my task force has come here, we have worked very closely with General Franklin and members of Al Bakr Airfield's [senior staff] to identify over 40 separate projects and initiatives that employ local Iraqis for the betterment of the local populace," Timmerman said.
Along with the bazaar retail initiative, Timmerman added that through outreach programs within the local medical community, many Iraqi medical personnel and administrators have worked with local clinics in Balad and have plans to extend the outreach program to Samarra.