One Corner at a Time

Citizens in Qayyarah, Iraq, clean up with the help of U.S. soldiers.

Citizens of the Al Hawd and Ijimissa villages in the district of Qayyarah, Iraq, began a month-long cleanup effort during the week of Sept. 13 to reduce the trash that had been accumulating in the city streets. Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team and 1st Cavalry Division assisted them.

The project was conceived by Mayor Saleh, mayor of Qayyarah, as part of a larger urban renewal effort to improve the quality of life for citizens of the upper Tigris River valley.

“We pretty much take trash collection for granted [in the U.S.],” said Staff Sgt. Kiel Carino, a section sergeant in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 12th Cav. Regt. “Al Hawd and Ijimissa don't have the same kind of service level, and so it falls on these people to pick up the trash themselves.”

The project was coordinated through local contractors, who provide trucks to take the trash to the city dump and basic tools to assist in clearing the roads of trash and debris. Approximately 100 local residents have been employed for this project. The site managers are hiring workers to clean up areas in which they live to create a sense of ownership in the neighborhoods.

“When I spoke to one of the site managers, he had a very detailed plan for how he was going to go about clearing the streets in an organized fashion,” said Carino. “You could tell that this was something he'd put a lot of thought and effort into.”

Headquarters Company soldiers then met with local sheiks and muhktars at the Qayyarah City Council. Mayor Saleh told the local leaders that, as civic leaders, it was up to them to ensure that their communities kept their streets clean and litter-free. The workers already have started clearing trash in parts of the two villages and are making a significant impact on the area.

“There's already an undeniable difference in the appearance of the streets in Al Hawd and Ijimissa,” said Capt. Lance Blount, Headquarters Company commander. “Corners and ditches that used to be overflowing with waste are now completely clean. It's a great improvement for the local community.”

The cleanup project was completed at the end of September, ending in a ribbon-cutting ceremony that gave the local civic leaders an opportunity to showcase their clean streets as a model for the entire Qayyarah District.

“It is hard work like this that is going to make Qayyarah a real success story,” Blount said.

1st Lt. Josh Swartsel, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment

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