JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — At JBB's recycling yard, Soldiers with the 547th Transportation Company out of Washington, work to make Joint Base Balad, Iraq, environmentally friendly, employ nearby villagers and stimulate the local economy.
Soldiers with the 547th Trans. Company escort the Iraqis on base and at the yard, where they work for the United Mandour Company, which is contracted to recycle unusable items from JBB.
Spc. Robert Matthews, an escort with the 547th Trans. Company, 49th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Washington native, said he provides security at the recycling yard and ensures that the contracted workers stay in their designated areas.
"It's exciting that they want to work here every day," said Matthews. "They love the opportunity to get a chance to make money for their families."
Abdulannabey Atteya Abd, a truck driver with the United Mandour Company, a contracted Iraqi company, said through a translator he is happy work here.
"I have a big family with 10 children, and now I can provide them with food and everything," said Abd.
He said he used to drive to Baghdad on truck convoys with U.S. forces and he was scared, but since he has started working with the Iraqi company, he does not get as many threats.
"In my opinion, the relations have been getting much better recently between Iraqis and the Americans," said Abd.
Spc. Vanessa Manford, an escort with the 547th Trans. Company and a Laurel, Md., native, said she makes sure the Iraqis stay on track and do their jobs.
"We have to watch that they don't pick up any contraband in the yard and try to hide it," said Manford. "We are actually working with them and not so much protecting the people anymore. I think it is a good thing that we are doing over here, and I feel I am making a difference in a small way."
Matthews said the workers haul wood, metal, water bottles, furniture, etc.
"One thing we do not accept are weapons, weapons parts or ammunition; pretty much anything else we can take," said Matthews.
He said the company takes the trucks full of recycled items off of the base to be sold.
"Some of it gets used for the welfare of the community," said Matthews. "We are helping them with jobs and also helping them with their community outside these gates."
Alaa Abdel Mouhsin Abbass, the owner of United Mandour Company, said, through a translator, he has hired between 75 and 100 workers here, and their jobs depend on the company's working relationship with the Americans.
He said he has seen a lot of progress in the last few years. Before this, many of the people near JBB were jobless, and U.S. forces provided them with good jobs, he said.
"I would like to thank the U.S. for helping our economy and [I] hope they can provide more work for us in the future," said Abbass.