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Building a better Baghdad

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Forum occasionally receives stories about North Dakota National Guard units serving in Iraq. They are written by the Guard's own journalists. Most will be published when space permits.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Forum occasionally receives stories about North Dakota National Guard units serving in Iraq. They are written by the Guard's own journalists. Most will be published when space permits.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Rebuilding Baghdad is a daunting task, but Bravo Company of the 142nd Engineer Battalion, North Dakota Army National Guard, has made a start at reconstructing the Iraqi capital.

The National Guard company, based in Wahpeton, with a detachment in Fargo, has been working in Baghdad since May. The engineer company has helped repair schools and hospitals in the city, cleaned up debris and garbage in Baghdad neighborhoods, and improved the airport.

Once in Baghdad, the company began actively working on Task Force Neighborhood, a V Corps community improvement program that improves and repairs structures such as schools, hospitals, and sporting complexes.

Bravo Company started missions May 16 and has participated in 18 missions to date, four a week.


"I think the intent of Task Force Neighborhood is catching on and spreading through the city," said Capt. Daryl Roerick, Bismarck, Bravo Company commander. "Other companies are taking missions like the ones involved in Task Force Neighborhood and running their own in the areas they are stationed."

The children of Iraq really enjoy soccer, called "football" in Iraq, so one of the missions focused on repairing a soccer stadium and surrounding complexes. Members of Bravo Company filled in 50 foxholes dug by Iraqi forces. The mission also involved disposing of 120 tons of trash and employing about 200 civilian workers to help repair the stadium. Other missions have focused on repairing electrical wiring and fixtures in schools, building walls and removing trash from a hospital, and leveling soccer fields throughout the city.

Alongside the engineers, other units take an active role in Task Force Neighborhood missions. Dental and medical units do checkups on local civilians, military intelligence units gather data, and military police provide security. As more missions developed, Roerick saw a change in the streets of Baghdad.

"We rolled through one part of the city three weeks ago and it was dirty and unhappy," Roerick said. "Last week, we rolled through that neighborhood and the spectrum of change was unreal. The people seemed so much happier. The neighborhood was cleaner and more organized."

While missions outside the wire continue to move forward, other members of Bravo Company are working to improve conditions at the airport.

Horizontal elements from the company have helped remove trash and rubble and uncover power lines and water lines. However, horizontal elements also participate in Task Force Neighborhood missions. ("Horizontal" refers to earth moving, with heavy machinery such as dozers and scrapers. The company also has a "vertical" mission, with carpenters and plumbers.)

Roerick remains positive that the company has adapted well to conditions at the airport and continues to conduct successful missions and projects. "I think the motivation of Bravo Company is really good," said Roerick. "There will always be issues about morale and such, but overall I think the motivation is good." After one mission, Roerick talked with an Iraqi child who was covered in paint after painting the school walls. The child was paid $5 for working and upon receiving the money; the child planted a kiss on the cheek of Sgt. John Goerger, Horace, who handed the money to the child.

"We may not be reaching the 40- or 50-year-olds, the older generations, but we are reaching the kids and that's what's important," Roerick said. "They are the generation that will be rebuilding the country."

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