Monday, August 06, 2007

Marquette Alum, Iraq Soldier: What the Media Ignores

From the Racine Journal Times, an interview with Lt. Col. Robert Kaiser, a Marquette alumnus who has served his country all over the world, including Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, Iraq and Germany.

Some excerpts:
Journal Times -- What do you see there that we don’t get to see?

Kaiser -- As the division engineer for the 3rd Infantry Division, I actually get to see a lot that doesn’t make the daily headlines back home, especially in the area of reconstruction. We spend a lot of effort in the Marine Division working reconstruction projects in support of the Iraqi people. Our division works in the area south of Baghdad, which is predominately rural and has a mix of Sunni and Shia populations. Their needs are no different from ours back home — they need clean drinking water, electricity for their neighborhoods, schools for their children and health clinics for the people.

These are the kind of projects we have assisted the Iraqi people with, as are all of the coalition forces throughout Iraq. These projects are essential and really make a difference at the local level, but they just don’t make the headlines. A great example of this is the Mahmoudiyah Market Rebuild project that was supported by the Commando Brigade, which is the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. Mahmoudiyah is a city with approximately 120,000 Iraqis, and the market area was severely damaged by a vehicle-borne IED.

Markets are central to the Iraqi way of life, and this market also served as a primary economic development area for the town. The Commando Brigade supported the rebuilding project in conjunction with the local government, and now the Mahmoudiyah Market is up and running. Stories like this happen all the time, but you just don’t hear about them compared to the car bombings. . . .

Another area I see that you really don’t hear much about is the change in cooperation between the locals and coalition forces now that we have a more sustained presence in Iraqi population centers. This is just from my perspective, but there seems to be an increase in the amount and the quality of help local Iraqis are now providing U.S. forces in our area. There is a link between cooperation between coalition forces and the local population and the number of projects we assist them with, and we have had a noticeable increase in the number of reconstruction projects pass through my office in the past several weeks.

The Iraqis want the same things that you and I want: a safe and secure place to live where they can raise their families. This is from my personal view, but it looks like we are doing better at providing that safe and secure environment with the surge, but only time will tell. Having said that, nothing is easy in this country!

But we are more inclined to believe what we hear from a soldier on the ground than what we hear from the media.

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