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 From the Front Lines

 

Capt. Kelly Lanphere (right), Sami Bello (center) and Nami Alsaiegh, bilingual and bicultural advisors with 4th Sqdn. 10th Cav. Regt., discuss a project in the Mansour District of northwest Baghdad.  Photo by 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs.

BAGHDAD — Since security has improved in northwest Baghdad, the 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment has developed many engineering projects to advance the citizens’ quality of life. Over the past year, two bilingual and bicultural advisors made sure those projects were done right.

 

In areas such as Ameriyah, Khandra, Adl, Jamiya, Washhash and Mansour, Iraqi-American civil engineers Nima Alsaiegh and Sami Bello worked with contractors to refurbish schools, medical clinics and much more to improve northwest Baghdad.

 

“Nima and Sami provide a skill set that is hard to replicate internally within the squadron. As civilian engineers, they have the capability to create scopes of work and provide quality checks of the ongoing projects,” said Lt. Col. Monty Willoughby, 4th Sqdn. 10th Cav. Regt. commander. “As Iraqi-Americans, they are able to communicate directly with Iraqi contractors and have a based knowledge of their capabilities that Soldiers don't inherently understand. We would not be able to have the same level of success without their contributions.”

 

Capt. Andrew Graziano, Iraqi Security Forces coordinator, 4th Sqdn. 10th Cav. Regt., said his unit did not have the engineering know-how to repave roads and build structures in his first deployment here.

 

“We’d go out there and look at asphalt roads and we wouldn’t know what to look for. We wouldn’t know what the composition was or the layers of asphalt looked like because we were not engineers and we were not qualified. So, the projects we were doing were JV work,” said Graziano. “Now we have these Iraqi-Americans coming here, and they have engineering backgrounds; they know what the projects are actually going to entail, and they make sure the projects are on budget, on time and to standard. What that translates to is we are at varsity-level projects.”

 

Among the details in many projects was the repair and replacement of tiles, roofs, doors, windows, repainted walls, sewage repair and the additions of running water and electricity.

Some of the renovated schools didn’t have bathrooms installed before they were worked on.

“Before (renovations), the children were going to schools with broken windows, no lights and no ceiling fans; some of them didn’t have bathrooms. They were so very unhappy,” said Alsaiegh. “Now, these children go to refurbished schools; there are bathrooms with water; there are places to play; there are basketball courts; there is air conditioning in the principal and assistant principal’s offices; there are complete computer labs; it is outstanding, and now they are very happy.”

Alsaiegh added that because of other projects like solar-powered street lights, public works substations, sewage pump stations, sports centers and the Ameriyah swimming pool, the people of northwest Baghdad are gaining hope for a sustainable future.

“We have done a lot here; I’ve been here almost 14 months working with the troops, and there is change in the mentality of the Iraqi people,” he said. “We have served them, and they believe in us.”

The Soldiers and the BBAs said over the last year, they have not only established a good rapport with the local citizens, they have also built strong friendships with each other.

“Working with 4-10 (Cavalry) members, from the commander to each individual Soldier, was joyful to me,” said Bello. “All were friendly and cooperative, and we worked as one family.”

As the squadron prepares to redeploy to Fort Carson, Colo. in the coming months, Willoughby expressed his gratitude to the engineers for doing a job that would have been complicated for the Soldiers.

“They demonstrate selfless service on a daily basis, always willing to work alongside Soldiers despite austere conditions and potential dangers,” he said. “The story of Iraqi-Americans returning to rebuild Iraq must be told; without their contributions, the process of improving the infrastructure of Baghdad would have been incredibly more difficult.”

 

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