Support our mission

FORWARD OPERATING BASE Q-WEST, Iraq — Security leads to growth. It’s a simple fact of life in volatile Iraq, and an ideology being utilized by the U.S. Army in Nineva province, which borders Syria in the country’s north.

The head of army operations in the province, Col. Stephen Twitty, 44, of Spartanburg, S.C., said during a visit to FOB Q-West on Wednesday that if confidence in safety is established, then the area economy will blossom.

He argues it already is.

Troops under his command, posted at an air base near the town of al Qayyarah, are taking the ideology to heart. Al Qayyarah is roughly 190 miles north of Baghdad, and about 30 miles south of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.

So for the 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division — out of Fort Bliss, Texas — carrying out development projects cannot be realized unless solid security and dialogue exist.

About 3,800 U.S. troops are under Twitty’s command, assigned to patrol and protect the province.

On Thursday, the 82nd Field Artillery’s executive officer, Maj. Lance Varney, 37, of San Diego, hosted several Iraqi dignitaries, including six area mayors, for what has become a monthly dialogue between the Army and local leaders. It’s not an easy undertaking. Some are Sunni and some are Kurdish.

Varney and his commanders get together with the Iraqis to discuss what they can do to help improve their conditions, especially when it comes to humanitarian missions, such as water projects.

The major is given $50,000 in emergency-relief funding per month to carry out high-impact, low-cost programs.

“I’ve been really concerned over the last few months about what the people who do not have wells do to get water — especially in the east,” Varney said.

The unit knows this firsthand, as it been deprived of regular water flow on base over the last few weeks and is relegated to twice-a-week showers, at best.

The mayor of the Kurdish town of Karach, Barzan Said Kaka, said there “are so many villages around my area that have water problems because of the lack of development by the previous regime.”

Saddam Hussein ruthlessly marginalized the Kurds and did little to develop their land. But Kaka said things have changed.

“We have more freedom now than we did under Saddam,” he said. “We still need more development, but just a few years ago we were starting from nothing. Some of our areas have small electricity and water now. I am worried though … the Americans are the only friends we Kurds have. And if the American forces leave, we are afraid we will be left with nothing again.”

Varney understands.

That’s why his unit set up a community newspaper three months ago to try and give a platform for locals to share their concerns, or even to make announcements about upcoming events.

It’s for locals, by locals.

All the military does is incur the costs of printing it, Varney said.

It’s called The River, a reference to the Tigris River, which runs through the province and is only a few kilometers from the base, splitting the town of al Qayyarah into two sides.

It’s only printed twice monthly, but has a four-page, four-color layout in Arabic.

About 500 copies are printed each time and contributing articles are gathered via coalition forces interpreters, who venture out into the region, soliciting writers.

“I’ve had a great response to the paper from the people in my town,” Omar Abed Ajeel, mayor of al Hadr, said through an interpreter during the mayors’ meeting.

“The people, when they look at it — they see that some good work is being done by the Americans.”

The Army is trying to get portions of the paper printed in the Kurdish language by the next issue, so no one feels left out, Varney said.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up