By Lt. Brett Matzenbacher
2nd BCT, 101st Airborne Div.
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq - The word "Sadr," in Arabic, roughly translates as 'the beginning." In the case of Sadr Al Yousefiyah, it refers to the small cluster of houses that surround the source of the Yousefiyah River.
However, this town has become symbolic as a source of more than just a modest river in the south Baghdad area. It is a source of sweeping change in this war-torn region of Iraq.
For months, the small village of Sadr Al Yousefiyah, 25km southwest of Baghdad proper, had been the base of operations for numerous terrorist launching attacks into the capital. That ended in early March when Soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, heavily supported by their Iraqi army counterparts, air assaulted into the area, driving out the terrorists and liberating the small town and the surrounding countryside.
Impressive as the action was, the 'true focal point of the operation will be the return of the local government and rebuilding of the area, which has been suffering under insurgent control," said Maj. Paul Schmidt, civil military operations officer, 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div.
The town of 3,000 people, living in a state of fear as loved ones were kidnapped or murdered, had seen its infrastructure nearly collapse and essential services virtually disappear.
"Supply of electricity is sporadic at best, and fresh water is a rarity," said Schmidt, when he surveyed a newly renovated water-treatment plant that had ceased to operate due to lack of security for workers who were threatened with execution by terrorists. With the arrival of Iraqi Security Forces, backed by Coalition Forces, the local government has been able to return and begin addressing these issues.
"Half a dozen projects are already underway in the wake of this operation," said McFadden, program manager, 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "These projects are a mix of short and long-term solutions to the problems facing these people. Some of these projects are simple road repairs to facilitate civilian transportation, while others are complicated and longer term projects developed to repair local electrical networks over the long haul," said McFadden.
A project to repair a broken water pipe has already been completed. "The pipe had been broken and was spewing water, resulting in complete loss of water pressure and contaminating the supply of drinking water to the people in that area," said McFadden.
The Yousefiyah Ministry of Water "acquired the repair parts and contacted a local contractor to make the repairs, with Iraqi army soldiers providing security," said Schmidt, a relatively minor task 'that was all but impossible until the insurgents were driven from the area."
Although many of these initial programs may be small in size and scope, these projects are "crucial to the stability operations that are under way," said Schmidt.
"The focus here is to assist the local government and ministries in rebuilding these regions once they are secured by Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces. If there is a stable government in place, and it is able to provide for the needs of the people, then the insurgent recruiting base will dry up," said McFadden.
Other benefits are also being reaped by the local citizenry.
"The contractors that come in here to do work are members of the local populace," said 1st Lt. Charles Claypool, the project purchasing officer for the "Strike" Brigade. "Because of the stranglehold put on this area by the insurgents, many of these people are out of work and desperately need the income generated by the projects. It's really a win- win situation for the locals; they can improve their hometowns and earn some money to feed their families at the same time."
The message being sent is simple. "The Iraqi government is going to provide for these people, not the insurgents and terrorists," said Schmidt.
Thus, Sadr Al Yousefiyah, a one-time insurgent stronghold, may now be given a chance to live up to its namesake and truly become 'the beginning" for the entire region, a beginning of peace and prosperity.