Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Soldiers, SoI Partner With Community to Give Mobility

Two members of the Tesah Nissan Sons of Iraq deliver a wheelchair to a disabled resident of the region, March 14 as Staff Sgt. Roderick Coleman, from Norfolk, Va., 2nd platoon, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, looks on. (Photo/Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard)

A senior Sons of Iraq member; council chairman Sheikh Enad; Capt. Chas Cannon, from Moultrie, Ga., commander of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery; and Tesah Nissan Sons of Iraq leader Sheikh Qassim, walk a trail together to deliver wheelchairs to disabled members of the community, March 14. (Photo/Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard)

By Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – The Soldiers knew how to get wheelchairs and local council members knew who needed them. The Sons of Iraq provided security and all three groups worked together to bring mobility to disabled residents of Tesah Nissan, March 14.

Capt. Chas Cannon, commander of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, along with Sheikh Qassim, leader of the Tesah Nissan SoI, and Sheikh Enad, council chairman, coordinated as a team to accomplish the mission.

“Back in December, during a patrol, I saw a man walking on his hands and asked the council, ‘Are there others who need a wheelchair?’ The council said yes, and at the following meeting they had names and locations,” said Cannon, a native of Moultrie, Ga.

Getting the wheelchairs was as simple as going on the internet.

“The wheelchairs were donated by and our civil affairs detachment, the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion out of Knoxville, Tenn., got them to my battery,” Cannon said. “They came in boxes and my Soldiers put them together.”

Humanitarian missions such as the wheelchair distribution go a long way toward building trust and good relationships with local residents.

“We have made considerable progress through these humanitarian missions,” Cannon said, “having just as much effect, or more, than a kinetic operation against the extremists.”

Staff Sgt. Roderick Coleman, from Norfolk, Va., agreed with Cannon.

“I’ve got a new understanding of the humanitarian and political side of the war,” said Coleman, a section chief with 2nd platoon, Battery A. “In order to defeat extremism you have to beat it from the inside out.

“A wheelchair distribution, a medical assistance mission, digging wells, building schools or a new Sons of Iraq headquarters building are all things that build confidence and trust between the Soldiers, the Sons of Iraq and the townspeople,” Coleman said.

Coleman, an artilleryman, turned infantry squad leader for this part of his deployment.

“I don’t mind working the streets,” Coleman said. “I get personal gratification from seeing the progress on the ground. I’ve seen schools built, supported medical operations, helped the Sons of Iraq develop in Tesah Nissan and all those things are signs of progress.”

The council meets weekly to discuss development and needs ranging from crops, to water and even wheelchairs.

“The council, led by Sheikh Enad, sets the pace for my work schedule,” Cannon said. “I tell the council how I can support them and they point me to the needs in the area. The wheelchairs were a need, that need has been filled.”

The 1-10 FA is part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

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