New Commerce Strengthens Community Relationships
1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-BFORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq - Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers are using money, not muscle, to help build relationships in the Iraqi community, boost the local Iraqi economy and eliminate the influence of militias in East Rashid.
The Soldiers of Troop C, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, visited the shops and garages Aug. 9 that populate the Abu T'shir Market Street to identify potential applicants for microgrants, small one-time grants, provided to local business owners to revitalize commerce and foster ties within the community.
The process begins when Soldiers conduct assessments, meeting with local business owners and inspecting their shops, said Staff Sgt. Rob Rouleau, a psychological operations noncommissioned officer from Colebrook, N.H., who serves with the 312th Tactical Psychological Operations Company.
Applicants must have identification, their deed of ownership for the place of business, and a scope of work that outlines employment and services, said Rouleau.
The Soldiers collect the information and build a packet to submit to the 1st BCT commander for approval, and then set up a day to distribute the money, said Rouleau, who is currently attached to the 7th Sqdn., 10th Cav. Regt., in support of MND-B and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The platoon accepts applications for 15-20 microgrants at a time, which can make for a long day, explained Rouleau, who accompanies the cavalry scouts during their day-to-day operations.
"It's going to boost the economy and get people off the streets," he said. "People who were previously unoccupied and might be exposed to a bad element will actually be gainfully employed, have a job, have a purpose in the community."
Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces continue to build relationships, securing the neighborhoods, and strengthening the community by helping Iraqis take an active role in their community and clean up their neighborhoods, streets and markets, said Sgt. Jonathan Kendrick, a cavalry scout from Troy, Ala., assigned to Troop C, 7th Sqdn., 10th Cav. Regt., 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B.
"We try to stay very professional, but also be personable, polite and kind with them," he explained.
The microgrant program simultaneously helps boost the Iraqi economy, while assisting Soldiers maintain the current levels of security in their sector, said Kendrick.
"We're getting up close and personal with each and every one of the shops on the market," Kendrick said.
At its best, the engagements provide the Soldiers, who maintain a 24-hour presence in the muhallahs, with actionable intelligence and tips that prevent the trafficking of ordnance and munitions, said Kendrick.
"Our mission out in Abu T'shir, it's a complex mission - it's counterinsurgency," said Sgt. 1st Class Carmen Centennial, platoon sergeant, 2nd Platoon, Troop C, 7th Sqdn., 10th Cav. Regt., 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B.
The Soldiers of 2nd Platoon have set many goals for the course of the deployment, one of which is to improve the community, he explained.
Developing relationships in Abu T'shir is key to successfully maintaining stability in the predominately Shia community that is home to approximately 60,000 Iraqis, said Centennial, a native of San Antonio.
The Soldiers accomplish this mission by patrolling the communities, working with the Iraqi Police and National Police, and talking with the people in their homes and their places of business.
"The NPs and IPs help a lot because they understand the cultures and customs and know what the people's needs are," he added.
The continuous presence within the muhallahs develops and fosters trust in these relationships, which leads to a better working environment for Iraqis, ISF and Coalition Forces, said Centennial.
"A lot of (Iraqis) expect a fast progress," Centennial said. "By sitting down with them and letting them know what the challenges are and what they're looking at, people are starting to understand it is not going to happen overnight, and that in order for it to be a success, they have to work with us."
The Soldiers of Troop C are accomplishing their mission, defeating the enemies of Iraq and improving the ISF as they transition into the lead for security operations in Rashid, said Centennial, who has more than 15 years service and experience from five years of deployments.
Centennial also said that he credits a large portion of his unit's success to the support and cooperation of the Iraqis in Abu T'shir.
"This is everything," Centennial said. "As long as they're not shooting, and we're not shooting, then it's a success. It's a hard sale to the Soldiers, but in the long run they will appreciate it.
"No one has been hurt; the violence is down, and the reason it is like that is because of what we're doing. At the same time we're not dumb; we understand that the insurgency has died down - that they have chosen not to fight anymore, but they could easily come back if we don't develop that relationship - that trust - with the community."
Centennial said that his Soldiers take pride in the work they accomplish in Abu T'shir and maintain a high standard inspecting local
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