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Sgt. Zach Mott 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
ISTAQLAL — Heated exchanges between opposing sides of an argument are often how foreign governments are thought to operate by some Americans. In this fertile region of Iraq, that process remains much more docile.
Tribal leaders and other members of the Kada (think county) Council gathered at Sheik Mohan Sager al-Fayadh’s compound Jan. 14, to discuss topics ranging from irrigation to building schools.
Also in attendance at this meeting were commanders from the 1st Combined Arms Battalion (CAB), 68th Armor Regiment (AR), 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and senior members of the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (ePRT) -- a U.S. State Department-run organization designed to help establish a functioning provincial government in this war-torn country.
Lt. Col. Michael Pappal, commander of the 1st CAB, 68th AR, is on his third tour in Baghdad. He’s held positions as an operations officer and executive officer prior to this tour where he’s serving as a battalion commander.
During this cold January day, Pappal mostly listened as the Iraqi members of the meeting sorted through the agenda.
“A lot of times in the meeting an issue is brought up that’s already been discussed offline,” the Indiana, Penn., native said. “It’s basically a decision made on consensus and the chair here really gets the final vote.”
In other regions in Iraq, ePRT have led to the provincial government earning numerous internal projects and an easier flow of money to help that region prosper. The Iraqi leaders at this meeting knew this and were eager to discuss what could be done in this mainly agricultural area in the Tigris River valley.
“Those kinds of things they see as the potential for progress,” Pappal said.
Pappal called this influence, possessed by both the ePRT and, more importantly Sheik Mohan, “wasita”. He said it loosely translates to someone with the ability to put others in contact with those that can provide services or assistance.
“People come to see him because he can get them to people because he knows them and can give them an introduction,” Pappal said.
While many needs and wants were hashed over in the nearly three hour meeting, unemployment was at the forefront of the commander’s mind when the talk turned to what the Americans can do to help.
When planning projects, Pappal said he tries to consider what is best for the people of that region.
“We want max participation short term and long term,” he said.
He added that for projects requiring maintenance, it’s important to work that into the contract to be absorbed by the Iraqi government.
There is much to accomplish in the coming months for Pappal and the Silver Lions he commands. But today marked a first step toward the prosperity he hopes will help this region thrive. He’s trained his troops to be ready for diplomacy as well as combat in this ever-evolving battlefield.
“They know that there’s a lot of help we can provide and they also know that there’s some people that need to be killed,” he said. “I trained them to be able to be lethal and also to be able to (be diplomats here.)”