Thursday, May 8, 2008

Soldiers Visit Windmills in Al-Zatir and Hollandia

Colonel Ryan Kuhn, deputy commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, speaks with local Iraqi contractors about the windmill in al-Zatir, Iraq, May 5. (U.S. Army photo/Spc. Justin Snyder)

By Spc. Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – U.S. troops visited windmills in al-Zatir and Hollandia, Iraq, on a quality analysis and control trip, May 5.

The Soldiers with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, made the trip to check on progress made on windmills over the past eight months.

Major Michael Blankenship, from Jonesborough, Tenn., 489th CA Bn., oversees the project and said he makes these trips weekly to ensure progress goes as planned and workers are following instructions.

The convoy made its first stop at al-Zatir and met with Haider, a local Iraqi contractor and son of Samir Muhammad, who owns al-Janoob Company, the lead contractor unit on the project.

Haider showed the Soldiers the windmill, which provides water for irrigation and drinking. He also showed off the newly revamped solar panels, which provide energy to purify water.

Taleb Hamid, a spokesperson for the local villages, said the water is much better now that they have the purifying system.

“The people were hesitant towards the water at first,” Hamid said. “Now they are very happy to have clean water for drinking and laundry use.”

Soldiers also visited a windmill in Hollandia, which provides water for irrigation and will eventually be equipped with the same purifying system as the one in al-Zatir. Blankenship believes the windmill in al-Zatir is the first of its kind.

“These people should be very proud of what they have done here,” said Col. Ryan J. Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., 3rd BCT deputy commander. “They have done something that no other Iraqi ever has. History is being made in this village.”

Kuhn was a part of the original planning and took part in the visits Monday. He said the Iraqi contractors have made significant progress on the windmills over time.

“These people have done a great job,” Kuhn said. “Now, when children come walking by on their way home from school, they will be able to … drink clean water.”

Kuhn said they are providing more than just clean water, but the security to enjoy it as well.

“Water is expensive for these people,” he said. “We are defeating the insurgents by not allowing them to control the prices of water and by providing free water.”

Blankenship said the overall project has been a huge success. He hopes that the success will carry over to 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., as they take over command in the Mada’in Qada.

Lieutenant Colonel Matthew F. McKenna, from Pittsburgh, 2nd BCT deputy commander, will be taking over the windmill project when the 3rd HBCT leaves Iraq.

“We want to get the director general for water in Iraq to look at these windmills,” McKenna said. “Hopefully they like the idea and we can expand the windmill program through the government of Iraq.”

The 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, is replacing the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., in the Mada’in Qada.

The 489th CA Bn., from Knoxville, Tenn., is attached to the 3rd BCT. The 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., from Fort Benning, Ga., has been deployed in support of Operation Iraq Freedom since March 2007.

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