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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part III

Toward the Objective: Building a New Iraq

Chapter 9
The US Army and the Reconstruction of Iraq


All Reconstruction is Local: The US Army Rebuilds Iraq

The Army’s campaign to reconstruct and refurbish Iraq began even before the CPA and CJTF-7 had taken over the Coalition effort in Iraq. In the days just following Saddam’s fall, Lieutenant General William S. Wallace, the commander of V Corps, and his staff decided to reach out to Iraqis and demonstrate the Coalition’s intent to serve as more than just an occupying force. Accordingly, V Corps units across Iraq launched TF Neighborhood. This effort was actually an operation that provided community improvement for local Iraqis by focusing on small projects intended to make a difference in everyday life. Many of the projects centered on cleaning up the trash and debris from the neighborhoods damaged by the war and looting. Major General Buford Blount, the commander of the 3d ID, explained, “Every day, a neighborhood section will get a full-court press of support that will include garbage pickup, medical assistance, ordnance cleanup, and anything else we can do in a day to help the neighborhoods.”49 Blount’s Soldiers became heavily involved in a variety of reconstruction projects including hauling tons of garbage, making repairs to schools and police stations, and providing medical resources.50

As the Iraqi summer began, the 1st AD focused on reconstruction projects in the sprawling Iraqi capital city. Because there was no overall Coalition plan for reconstruction, commanders in the division sought to address the most pressing and obvious local needs first. Initial work focused on cleaning streets by concentrating engineering resources, utilizing CA, and working with local Iraqis.51 Once CERP became available, the 1st AD launched a variety of infrastructure projects to repair sewer lines, water systems, and the electrical grid.52 Colonel Ralph O. Baker, commander of the 2d BCT, 1st AD, recalled that he created the acronym SWEAT, which stood for sewer, water, electricity, academics and trash, as a device to focus his Soldiers’ efforts in the reconstruction part of the new campaign. Baker explained the importance of pursuing academic projects: “Academics were repairing schools because the school year was getting ready to start and there is no faster way to win over parents than to do something for their children. We also knew that education and trying to influence the young population was an important component of our information operational strategy anyway.”53

This basic principle of channeling funding to simple projects that could markedly and immediately improve communities drove the reconstruction efforts of other units as well. Major General Raymond Odierno, commander of the 4th ID, described the objective of his reconstruction campaign in 2003 as “our ability to put money, specifically the CERP money we were given to do critical projects that would show the community we were first trying to make their lives better and we were trying to normalize what was going on. This went from building schools, to sewers, to water, and to electricity.”54 Odierno also arranged for economists from the US Military Academy at West Point to serve as consultants to the new government in the city of Kirkuk to help that city create a development plan to coordinate the local CERP-funded initiatives.55

Colonel Frank Rudesheim also used reconstruction programs for small improvements to the infrastructure. He viewed these works as a means of fostering the legitimacy of the local government officials, another key objective within the new campaign. Rudesheim noted that he became very conscious of ensuring the city council in Samarra, a key city in the Sunni Triangle, received credit for projects that were often collaborations between Iraqi leaders and US Soldiers. Like other commanders, Rudesheim tried to employ as many Iraqis in these efforts as possible for several reasons. First, employment in reconstruction helped prevent local Iraqis, especially young men, from joining insurgent groups for economic reasons. Second, the use of Iraqi labor placed an Iraqi face on the overall effort, legitimizing the post-Saddam political order and demonstrating the Coalition’s role as a partner with that new order.56

In northern Iraq in 2003, the 101st ABN placed great emphasis on the potential effects of its reconstruction efforts. Believing that the Iraqis needed a general sense of normalcy for their economy and society to begin recovery, the 101st ABN concentrated on infrastructure and schools, but also spent time opening swimming pools, restaurants, and even worked with a company to open a hotel in Mosul.57 Engineers attached to the 101st ABN taught former Iraqi soldiers basic construction skills to help them find employment. The Iraqis learned and honed their skills in the Village of Hope project that provided homes for displaced families in Mosul.58 Reconstruction projects that employed local Iraqis became a priority because of their ability to stimulate the economy.

To the west of the 101st ABN’s AOR, in Al Anbar province, the 82d ABN also accomplished a broad set of reconstruction projects. By the time the division left Iraq in 2004, its units had spent more than $40.4 million in funding 2,436 projects.59 Within the province, the division concentrated these projects on four decisive services essential to improving the quality of life for the Iraqi people: power production, health care, education, and water and sanitation.60 The 82d ABN used CERP to contract with local Iraqis for the repair of 431 schools and invested over $3.2 million to reconstruct the provincial education system. The division also funded Iraqi efforts to refurbish over 300 mosques in the province.61 Because water was so important in this hot arid region of Iraq, division leaders made a concerted effort to increase the amount of drinking water that was available to the Iraqi population. To help garner support for the Coalition in the unstable city of Fallujah, Major General Charles H. Swannack Jr., the division commander, directed the purchase of water purification units and had his engineer units set them up in the city. The division also used its quartermaster units to create more potable water for smaller communities by using their reverse osmosis water purification units (ROWPUs).62

Some of the US Army’s projects targeted specific types of economic activity. In the city of Ramadi in 2003, Soldiers in the 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, Florida Army National Guard, helped local fishermen regain their livelihood and provide food for their families by contributing new nets and other fishing equipment.63 Similarly, in 2004 Soldiers from the 1st CAV became involved in making improvements in agricultural production. Soldiers in the 5th BCT, 1st CAV, created a farmer’s co-op and provided seed and assistance with irrigation for farmers in their AOR.64 The division’s 1st BCT also became involved in helping Iraqi farmers through the use of their CERP money to buy wheat and barley seed as well as fertilizer. Second Lieutenant Brendan Tarpey, a platoon leader in the brigade, explained the long-term benefits that the seed program promised, “It’s not so much that it’s us handing out free stuff. It’s that this is something we can give the farmers so that they can have a leg-up in this next planting season.”65

The leaders of the 1st CAV and other units that made up the OIF II rotation—those divisions and brigades that deployed to Iraq in the first half of 2004—enjoyed an advantage over the commanders of units that had deployed in 2003: the time and information required to adequately train and prepare for full spectrum operations. Once notified of the 1st CAV’s future deployment, Major General Chiarelli and his staff gathered intelligence about the AORs the division’s units would occupy and prepared for missions in those areas. In 2003 during the division’s training for OIF, Chiarelli insisted that his engineer units work with civilian planners, administrators, and engineers in the cities of Austin and Killeen, Texas, to gain a basic understanding of how cities function.66 This preparation paid off when the 1st CAV took over responsibility for the city of Baghdad. Chiarelli’s engineers immediately established an interagency effort with the US Department of State and the USAID to coordinate reconstruction projects through the University of Baghdad so that the division’s projects would benefit Iraqi contractors and the local government as much as possible.

According to Chiarelli, the leaders of the 1st CAV placed paramount importance on reconstruction missions, making it the line of operation in the division’s campaign plan that was the “first among equals.”67 Initially, the unit’s reconstruction efforts focused on funding and facilitating large projects, such as water treatment plants and landfills, with the expectation that other agencies would initiate the improvements to connect these major sites to neighborhoods in Baghdad. Yet, when funding issues jeopardized the efforts to make the connections to local levels, the 1st CAV partly reoriented its operations toward projects that provided essential services—water, electricity, sewer—along the “First Mile,” the division’s term for the neighborhood level where making signs of visible progress was critical.68

In some cases, the 1st CAV was able to complete large-scale projects that had an immediate local impact. In May 2004, for example, the 5th BCT, 1st CAV, worked with the CPA and its contractor, FluorAmec, to build a large landfill in southern Baghdad.69 However, rather than having the contractor do most of the work with sophisticated machinery, the division and brigade leadership coordinated with the CPA and the contractor to ensure the project made the widest possible use of local Iraqi suppliers, craftsmen, and laborers. By adding such a provision to the terms of the contract, both the military and the civilian headquarters sought to employ the greatest possible number of local Iraqis in the shortest time possible.70 The 5th BCT worked with local sheiks and ultimately put 4,000 Iraqis from southern Baghdad neighborhoods to work on the landfill project. Chiarelli viewed projects like this as vital to demonstrating the Coalition’s ability to make visible improvements in Iraqi life. Moreover, Chiarelli believed that by employing 4,000 local men, the project was actually supporting these workers, their extended families, and others in service-oriented firms that might indirectly gain from the injection of wages from the landfill construction. This large group, potentially 60,000 Iraqis in Chiarelli’s estimation, had been positively affected by a single project and perhaps dissuaded from joining the insurgency as a result. Thus, for the 1st CAV leadership, reconstruction operations became another way of eroding the pool of disaffected Iraqis from which insurgent leaders recruited their followers.71

Other units used different means of maximizing Iraqi involvement in reconstruction operations. The 1st Infantry Division (1st ID), operating in the Sunni Triangle in 2004, established an Iraqi engineer group within their division staff to design and direct a number of their projects. As members of local communities, these engineers were invaluable for their input and help in finding reputable contractors. The division’s leaders also met with provincial governors on a weekly basis to decide where reconstruction money should be spent. The 1st ID staff followed up these efforts by ensuring that Iraqi politicians received credit for all of the improvements to the infrastructure and economy.72 According to Master Sergeant Luis Jackson, a noncommissioned officer (NCO) in the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry (1-18th IN) which was part of the 1st ID’s 2d BCT, the division and its subordinate units attempted to conduct reconstruction projects jointly with the Iraqis at all times. Jackson’s unit dispatched joint Iraqi and American CA patrols that surveyed Tikrit three times a week to help decide priorities for reconstruction efforts.73 Like the leaders of the 1st CAV, Colonel Dana Pittard, commander of 1st ID’s 3d Brigade, stressed the importance of hiring locals to do the projects and set as his goal the employment of 50,000 Iraqis. Through its coordination with the local Labor Directory, the division matched contractors with unemployed citizens in the Diyala province.74 Using this method, the division facilitated the rebuilding of the Bayji Power Plant with the help of the Corps of Engineers and local contractors, employing over 2,000 civilians in the process.75

US Army units tackled a broad array of small projects in a wide variety of settings. The 3d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division (2d ID), made great efforts in 2004 to bring fresh water to the people in the northwest reaches of Iraq. First Sergeant Richard Gano Jr., who served with the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, recalled drilling water wells and building irrigation lines for the people of Tall Afar.76 Units throughout the brigade’s AOR worked on small projects, such as individual wells, and on larger projects in coordination with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Iraqi Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO), the US Embassy agency that after June 2004 directed the overall reconstruction effort in Iraq. Other units focused on humanitarian efforts designed to relieve suffering. In Baghdad in 2004, Soldiers of the 2d BCT, 10th Mountain Division conducted Operation WINDY CITY to distribute fleece blankets to an impoverished sector of Baghdad that had historically been ignored by the Saddam regime.77 Projects such as these were small compared to the programs focused on infrastructure improvements, but helped meet the immediate needs of Iraqi citizens and allowed Soldiers to engender good will and support for their missions.

By the middle of 2004 all of these efforts had made a large impact on the physical infrastructure of Iraq. One estimate completed by the CJTF-7 staff asserted that between June 2003 and May 2004, the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen of the joint task force refurbished and opened 240 hospitals; 2,200 health clinics; and 2,300 schools, technical institutes, and universities.78 They cleared more than 15,000 kilometers of clogged canals and completed numerous water distribution improvements. Overall, CJTF-7 forces conducted roughly 13,000 reconstruction missions worth over $8 billion. All of the US Army’s projects, large and small, demonstrated the Coalition’s resolve to improve the lives of Iraqis.

Chapter 9. The US Army and the Reconstruction of Iraq

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