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Brigade leaves Iraq region secure, revitalized
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WASHINGTON -- Nearing the end of a 15-month deployment in Iraq's Madain Qada region, the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team has accomplished its purpose of contributing to violence reduction in Baghdad and stabilizing communities throughout the region, the brigade's commander said last week.
"I think if you look back on the past 15 months, you can see that we most definitely accomplished our purpose of contributing to a reduction of violence in Baghdad and stabilizing the communities in the Madain Qada," Col. Wayne Grigsby, commander of 3rd Heavy BCT, told online journalists and "bloggers" in a teleconference.
Grigsby said violent crime was "out of control" when the brigade deployed to Madain Qada in March 2007 as part of the troop surge. They were being attacked four to five times a day, and criminal elements were extorting Iraqi shop owners, he said.
The brigade was able to secure area communities and halt extremists' movement into Baghdad by conducting aggressive, intelligence-driven offensive operations, Grigsby said.
"We never forgot what a U.S. Army heavy brigade combat team was made to do, close with and destroy the enemy," he said.
The brigade killed 160 enemy extremists, detained more than 500 suspected criminals and cleared every enemy sanctuary in the region during the 15 months, Grigsby said. He added that 47 of the detained suspects were considered "high-value" individuals.
"Where al-Qaida and other Sunni extremist groups had had their run in the southern portion of our battle space, now we estimate there are [only] about three Sunni extremist groups of no more than 10 extremists per group in our battle space," he explained.
"We killed or captured their leaders, denied them use of the safehouses and support zones," Grigsby said, "and with our 'Sons of Iraq' allies, we are sitting on their former resupply lines and holding that terrain."
The Sons of Iraq are groups of citizens who contribute to security efforts in their neighborhoods.
The murder rate in Madain Qada declined by more than 50 percent, Grigsby said, from 631 murders in 2006 to 253 in 2007. And there are now days with no enemy attacks, he added.
Conditions also are greatly improved for the region's population. In addition to taking extremists and criminals off the streets, Grigsby said, the brigade made strides building the trust of the people and helping them revitalize their communities.
"We built these relationships of trust by treating local residents with dignity and respect and giving them their community back," he said.
He said 3rd Heavy BCT was involved in many efforts to revitalize markets, build schools and improve water-distribution facilities. In Salman Pak, a city 15 miles south of Baghdad, the brigade facilitated the revitalization of the market and the refurbishment of a hospital, he said. And a single battalion, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry, oversaw the refurbishment of more than 13 schools.
Grigsby said the brigade also facilitated the construction of a new soccer stadium in Wahida.
"[The soccer stadium] is a luxury," he said, "but a luxury that we could assist in bringing to the community that has now lived through a relatively peaceful and normal year and is beginning to want more than the most basic elements in the hierarchy of needs."
Grigsby said the Iraqi government is aware of the progress in Madain Qada and has acknowledged it by committing millions of dollars for projects and improvement in the region in 2008.
"The leaders of Iraq are telling you things are better in the Madain Qada," he said.
The responsibility to continue the momentum will be absorbed by the 1st Armored Division's 2nd BCT, which is replacing 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team in the Madain Qada region of Iraq.
Grigsby said the "combat-tested" 2nd Brigade already is being integrated in programs and initiatives in the region.
He also said he's working with the new brigade's commander, Col. Pat White, on programs to improve the quality of life in Iraq's Diyala province. The programs intend to provide a power substation, a water-distribution facility, a youth center, four schools, multiple poultry farms, and more infrastructure, he said.
"It is through this capacity-building effort that we can continue to pressure the enemy and leave him isolated outside the community that he used to use for protection and camouflage," Grigsby said. "But, with another great combat brigade coming into Madain Qada, I am very optimistic that Col. Pat White and his team will continue to build on our progress over the coming months."

Noel works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.
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