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Mission aims to weaken insurgent hold

Gifts, visits designed to woo residents

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POSTED: October 11, 2007 5:03 a.m.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq — Third Infantry Division soldiers handed out humanitarian aid packages Sept. 12 to help break the hold insurgents have had on a poor community in Salman Pak.
A local sheik, also a concerned citizen leader, has been working with Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, to combat the insurgent stranglehold. Capt. Walter Straube, Ferndale, Calif., a fire support officer for Company B, said the Sunni sheik has been very helpful and has used his connection with the people to unify their resolve.
Straube said residents have stood up a concerned citizens group to counter insurgents who have been targeting the poverty-stricken people of the region. Insurgents have been extorting the populace by forcing them to give money, possessions or food as payment in exchange for utilities such as food, water and gas.
The soldiers handed out bags containing rice, cooking oil and other necessities. Straube said he feels confident that humanitarian missions like this one have helped. On previous missions, Co. B soldiers have distributed the humanitarian aid bags by hand, often while walking the neighborhoods.
“We’ve distributed bags before. Usually we go around the area and give out a few bags,” Straube said. “We’ll pass them out to people on the street, or we’ll see a kid and give him a bag to take home with him.”
Straube believes by helping residents, they will be less inclined to be pushed around by the insurgents and even less likely to be persuaded or bribed to assist insurgents.
“Instead of an insurgent offering to pay $300 for someone to dig them a hole for an improvised explosive device,” he said, “by us giving them humanitarian aid bags, they’ll probably say no as they are less likely to need it.
“Simply put, it will break the bond with the insurgents. Once that bond is broken, it will enable us to help them even more.”
Along with the humanitarian aid bags, Soldiers also distributed six generators, two 10,000-gallon gas tanks, and many blankets and mattresses in preparation for the coming winter.

Riley is a journalist for the 3rd HBCT Public Affairs.
 

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