Ad Diwaniyah water department turns to troops for help

19 Jul 2003 | Army Sgt. Troy Chatwin

A governate support team from Green Bay, Wis.-based 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion understands that water in rural parts of the country is essential.

Not only has it helped bolster water delivery in this area to pre-war levels, it literally raised water from the ground July 19 after the crash of a delivery truck in a nearby village.

The city's water department delivers clean drinking water to outlying areas via rough, dirt roads every two or three days. On one of these deliveries the shoulder of the road collapsed, landing the truck on its side.

After trying three days to figure out how to recover the delivery truck themselves, and almost out of hope, the water department knew they could turn for help to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, to which the governate support team is attached.

Hearing the call for help, Army Sgt. Matt Hall, the water team leader from Nashotah, Wis., sprang into action. Knowing the trucks are vital to keeping the water flowing to the 30 homes in the village of Al-Hamed, he hired a local crane operator to lift the truck from the ditch.

"We have a small discretionary fund from the U.S. government for projects with local impact like this one," Hall said. "By hiring a local company to do the work, we stimulate the economy and lessen our liability."

The $100 spent on lifting the tanker from the ditch was eagerly received by the crane company and kept the local water department on solid ground.

"We could either deal with [lifting the tanker out of the ditch], or we would create another problem, " Hall said, referring to one less truck on the road to make rural deliveries.

The elders of the village watched the tanker until the crane came to place it back on the dirt road. The water company found that the truck still had all the water in its tank, which had to be drained before the truck could be lifted.

The Iraqis knew the importance to water and wanted to protect it as shepherds that gathered around Hall and the truck.

Just as the sun was setting over the horizon, the crane set the truck back on the road.

"We need you to fix the road so the truck can come back with water," Hall told the villagers through the truck driver-turned-translator. "We will work together to fix these problems."