By Pfc. Sharla Perrin
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
MOSUL, Iraq - Mosul has often been referred to as the last haven of insurgent activity in Iraq, but lately the city has had fewer doors bashed in and more tender loving care.
Col. Greg Maxton, deputy commander for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, has been sitting "shotgun" with the residential, military and government leaders of Mosul since mid-February coordinating projects to clean the city's streets of trash. Although Maxton oversees all non-lethal operations in Ninewah province, there are other bricks in the pathway to success in the area.
Executed at the lowest possible level, companies, batteries and troops within the brigade have worked with local Iraqi leaders to establish the clean-up projects to turn what were once neighborhoods laden with the weight of their filth into communities thriving with physical and emotional potential.
After agreements are made and meetings are adjourned, the junior officers who command these lowest-level units watch the ideals go into action in the Mosul neighborhoods.
"The work that they're doing is spectacular," Maxton said. "We just have to keep our minds open; anything is possible."
When contemplating projects, Maxton poses the question: "What does it take to promote a better environment for the people who live there?"
"Some of the companies may not realize the foundation of what they're doing, but really, everything hinges on it, and they're doing a great job," Maxton said.
Seven Nissan is a neighborhood in northern Mosul that is supervised by Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment.
A month ago, the neighborhood's empty lots and curbside gutters were riddled with an assortment of garbage from plastic grocery bags to broken-down cars. On March 7, Capt. Derrick Burden, the battery's commander, circulated the area and saw clean sidewalks, freshly swept streets and local residents spending their afternoon picking up trash and spreading gravel.
"My greatest achievement in this mission is watching (hired residents) come to work at seven in the morning every day," Burden said. "The people of 7 Nissan talk about how the government is doing a good job of hiring people within the neighborhood to work."
The work Burden and his battery have done is the solution to more than just aesthetic value and employment. In the past, unemployed men in Mosul were becoming puppets for the insurgent force as a means to provide for their families. As these same men have been provided a legitimate source of income, the illicit organizations for which they used to work will no longer be a source of strength. The efforts of the brigade will ultimately drive insurgents away.