03 June 2008

COIN in Sadr City: Iron Brigade Soldiers talk to Jamilla Market owners about microgrants

Lt. Col. Brian Eifler (r), who hails from Farmington Hills, Mich., and Capt. Nicholas Cantrell (l), who hails from Topeka, Kan., help an Iraqi shop owner in Jamilla Market in the Sadr City district of Baghdad fill out a micro-grant application May 29. Business owners trying to get their businesses started again after nearly two months of intense fighting in Sadr City are eligible for grants up to $2,500 from coalition forces.

Eifler is the commander of Task Force 1-6, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armor Division, assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, and Cantrell serves as a fire support officer with the unit. Photo: Maj. Michael Humphreys.

BAGHDAD – “We have specifically been looking for lost revenues and minor damages or losses, like a small generator or a refrigerator,” Cantrell said, of his door-to-door approach at educating business owners to the possibilities.

“The word is starting to get out … we are experiencing people starting to ask us about the micro-grants now instead of us telling them,” Cantrell said.

In four days, TF 1-6 handed out $85,000 in micro-grants, and though the money is a lifeboat to the individual business owner, Cantrell said TF 1-6 is leading the charge in concert with the Iraqi security forces, the government of Iraq, and civil affairs operations, to fix Jamilla Market on a grand scale.

“It was operating at zero percent,” said Lt. Col. Brian Eifler, a native of Farmington Hills, Mich., and commander of TF 1-6. “Now it’s about 30 or 40 percent of what it used to be, and every day we see a marked improvement in there.”

While micro-grants are being handed out to business owners pedaling everything from fruits and vegetables to hammers and nails, the work going on around them reads like an expensive shopping list as well. Cantrell said numerous small projects are underway to remove rubble, fix open sewers, improve power and install street lights and many other critical infrastructure improvements.

“We’ve cleaned up many of the areas affected by the fighting and fires, and all of this has resulted in stores and businesses reopening and with the residents feeling a new sense of security,” Cantrell said.

With a shout out and big hug to Amy Cantrell, a volunteer with the Soldiers' Angel's Blankets of Hope team and who sends us blankets for the patients at Landstuhl. CPT Cantrell is her son, from the Baumholder, Germany-based Iron Brigade which recently deployed to Iraq.

It's the unit's 3rd deployment in the last five years, and they're seeing a lot of positive changes. Now, the local merchants understand who is responsible for the losses they've edured and feel secure enough to talk about it.

“The terrorists – they destroy everything. They take everything,” one of them said. He's vowed to use the coalition-sponsored microgrant and other help from the GoI to rebuild his business.

“We are with the right,” he exclaimed. “We are with the people. We are with the new world.”

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