By 1st Lt. Jesse Ozbat
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Prior to the arrival of Company C “Rock,” 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, Soldiers to the area of Mushada, northwest of Baghdad, there were few shops open and with very limited hours.
Many of the residents remained in their homes, and the local government was unable to function as it should. It became the goal of the Soldiers of Co. C to change the previous state of the area and make it safe for everyone that lives in Mushada.
“Our goal is to provide a secure environment so the Iraqi government can take control and we can transition home,” said Spc. Justin Scully, a native of Cincinnati.
The first step to changing Mushada for the better was to provide lasting security for the area. The Sons of Iraq (Abna al-Iraq) were established to secure their individual neighborhoods.
The Soldiers of Co. C began daily security patrols throughout the area. With the combined security efforts of the SoI and Co. C Soldiers, attacks decreased, the residents began leaving their homes and shops began to reopen. As the shops began to open the Soldiers began to address shop owners’ concerns to gain a better understanding of what they needed for improvement.
The Soldiers began providing micro grants to select business owners as a way for them to take the next step toward maintaining a consistent business. With the help of the grants, more and more shops began to open and the markets began to rapidly expand.
The improved security also allowed the leaders of Co. C to attend the Mushada City Council meeting and build a solid working relationship with the members.
Working closely with the Mushada Nahia, the Iraqi equivalent of a county seat, was an important goal for Co. C. Initially U.S. Soldiers took the lead, conducting assessments on schools, water treatment units, roads and various other potential projects as a show of good will. Now the Nahia council members have taken more control of local governance, and established their own priorities and methods of assessing progress within Mushada.
“The council has come a long way,” said Lt. Daniel Laakso, a native of South Bend, Ind., and platoon leader, Co. C, 1st Bn. 14th Inf. Regt., “It is encouraging to see them take care of their people.”
The local village leaders now go to the Mushada Nahia council members when they want projects in their village areas.
The combined efforts of Co. C and the Nahia has made immediate impacts as well as lasting impacts, and it is the hope of the Rock Soldiers that Mushada will be self sufficient by the time they reach the end of their time in the area.