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Iraqi Brick Factory Approaches Pre-war Capacity

Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard, USA

Workers at the Narhwan Brick Factory Complex move bricks from the cutter to carts pulled by donkeys March 25, 2008. The complex is home to 167 businesses, employs 15,000 Iraqis and produces nearly 4 million bricks per day. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard, USA

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq, March 28, 2008 – Revitalization of the Narhwan Brick Factory Complex has led to an explosion of employment.

Since January, employment numbers at the complex have quadrupled to nearly 15,000 workers, and production is up more than 500 percent.

Army Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, commander of 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, said the boom resulted from a deal between the Iraqi minister of oil and officials who represent the 167 businesses operating in the complex. Sullivan said the deal allocated enough heavy fuel oil needed to fire up the kilns to bake bricks for the complex to boost production.

“I merely facilitated and connected the owners with the Ministry of Oil,” said the native of Huntsville, Ala. “This was an Iraqi problem in need of an Iraqi solution, and they did it.”

Six years ago, the complex was at full operating capacity, employing 25,000 Iraqis and producing nearly 8 million bricks per day.

“In 2002, the brick factory owners were here; we weren’t,” Sullivan said. “The Iraqis best understand the potential at the NBFC, and we are just helping them reach that potential.”

Sullivan said the factory is crucial to reducing unemployment in the region. In Iraqi culture, the eldest male in the family is responsible to provide for his family; the NBFC offers that opportunity to provide.

“When you help one family leader in Narhwan, you are helping 10, because their families are so large,” he said. “We saw a need for employment, and the Iraqis fulfilled it. By having this factory employ the populace, it makes our mission safer.”

When 1-10 FA arrived in Narhwan in October, insurgents controlled the NBFC. A series of offensive operations ousted the insurgents, Sullivan said, returning the complex to its rightful owners.

“The security situation now has reached a level where factory owners and workers are comfortable enough to return to the NBFC and stand the businesses back up,” Sullivan said. “That’s where we are today with employment, and it has the potential to get better.”

But the heavy fuel oil supply from the Iraqi government is facing challenges, Sullivan said. “During March, allocations of HFO to private enterprises ceased,” he explained. “The owners are in the process of trying to resolve it. They have figured it out before; I am confident they will figure it out again.”

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Scott Maynard serves in the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)

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