By Pfc. Justin Naylor
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq- One look at a Mine-Resistant Armor-Plated Vehicle will tell you that it isn't the easiest thing on six wheels to turn around, and sometimes accidents happen.
Unfortunately, sometimes accidents happen on the streets of Kirkuk, Iraq, or in the outlying villages or cities. In order to reimburse individuals for the damages, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division's legal team handles civilians' claims to compensate for their loss.
Claims can be filed for damaged cars or houses, for injuries or torn power lines or anything else that might be damaged or destroyed by accident or in the line of duty by U.S. military forces.
The filing of claims for damage caused by U.S. military forces in a foreign country falls under an act passed by Congress known as the Foreign Claims Act, which states that if the U.S. government does anything in a foreign nation that damages property or injures people, it will reimburse them for the damages.
This act, however, will not pay out for injuries or damage caused during combat, and claims filed that fall in this category are generally paid out by the Commander's Emergency Response Program funds, which can pay up to $2,500 by brigades, with anything more requiring higher command approval.
If anyone says that we damaged their property or inadvertently caused them bodily harm they have to come to Kirkuk Government Building and make a claim, said Capt, Katherine Gowel, a judge advocate with 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
When an incident or accident is caused by 2nd Brigade soldiers, they are instructed to give out claims cards that give instructions on where to file a claim, and also has a section where they can write down what happened, when it took place and who caused the damage, Gowel said.
Claims that are not combat-related, such as accidently side-swiping a vehicle, are reviewed by the brigade's legal team who, depending on the dollar amount, can approve or deny them.
Throughout Iraq, all claims are processed and paid out by the U.S. Army, even if the damage was caused by other U.S. military services.
By paying claims for damage the U.S. military causes, the U.S. military is showing the citizens of Iraq that the military takes responsibility for what we do, Gowel said.
"We are trying to right our wrongs, fix what we broke, and pay for what we messed up," she said.
For one Iraqi citizen, the fact that he was compensated for damage to his vehicle caused by the U.S. military came as a surprise.
"Coalition Forces were hit by a grenade near my house, and while they were driving back to base, they accidentally ran into my vehicle," Omar Hasan Gadhban said.
"They came back a few days later, apologized for the accident, took photos of the damage, discussed the claims process, and reassured me that I would be compensated," he continued. "I was surprised."
Omar filed his claim soon afterward, and 10 days later received a call from the claims office explaining that he had been approved for the full amount he claimed, and that his money was ready to be picked up.
The process went very fast, he said. "I wasn't even sure if I was really going to be compensated for the damage."
For Iraqi citizens who are facing a similar dilemma, it is best to go to the U.S. military claims office nearest them and talk with the legal assistance team about what paperwork they will need when filing a claim.