Deep purple eggplant glisten in the sun while stacks of fresh watermelon rest on display safely under cover from the mid-day, 115-degree weather as Striker Brigade Soldiers walk the street admiring the produce and assessing needs of this popular Fish Market in the Suleikh neighborhood of the Adhamiyah District of Baghdad, July 24.
The patrol was part of a continued effort by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division â€“ Baghdad to build on the economic success the unit has seen in Adhamiyah.
â€œThe Fish Market is a great example of what improved security can mean in the lives of Iraqis,â€ said Maj. Byron Sarchet, information operations officer for 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. â€œThis piece of Baghdad has seen little U.S. or Iraqi army presence lately. Security is being provided by the Sons of Iraq, currently, and the market is thriving.â€
With the limited U.S. presence that success provided, comes dangers. Sarchet said often simple problems with simple solutions can easily become big problems for U.S. and Iraqi forces if left unattended. Just driving by the fish market itâ€™s easy to assume a flourishing market with no troubles in sight, but a cursory walk through the streets uncovers a problem.
Abdul al Setar, an Iraqi business owner, runs into the street to greet the U.S. Soldiers. Through an interpreter he gives an animated report that his home and shop have power for only an hour a day. â€œIt is too hot. This is not good for my wife and family,â€ Setar tells the Soldiers hoping they can bring welcomed relief.
After a round of chai from a street vendor, the Soldiers begin their search for the generator meant to provide power to the street. They donâ€™t look far before an Iraqi woman approaches with the same concern as Setarâ€™s.
The patrol soon finds two generators in the market in similar degrees of disrepair. Sarchet said the first thought might be to contract for repair or replacement of the generators, but that doesnâ€™t help the Iraqis solve the problem for themselves.
â€œWe canâ€™t let the Fish Market flounder,â€ Sarchet gibed, â€œItâ€™s important to find a local guy with a vested interest in the market and the economy to help provide power to the neighborhood.â€
Another walk around and the patrol stumbles on a small store with a healthy generator powering about 60 shops along the busy street. Mustafa Abud Aller is happy to invite the Soldiers in to see his shop and he proudly shows off the generator that he and his brother-in-law maintain.
â€œCan you fix the generators in the market,â€ Sarchet asks Mustafa, who answered enthusiastically that he could, but it would cost money.
â€œSure this guy is taking advantage of the situation,â€ Sarchet said, â€œbut thatâ€™s business. If we can quickly get him 3,000 dollars and he becomes the power company for the neighborhood, thatâ€™s business.â€
Less than two years ago, Adhamiyah was wrought with violence and sectarian strife. Now markets are flourishing all over the district where Iraqis sell fresh produce, clothes, electronics, auto parts and other wares bringing normalcy to the area and stimulating the economy. But Sarchet warns that peace is fragile without continued interaction and communication with the people.
â€œThe market here is thriving because the people have had a taste of how good it can be. We just have to keep progressing forward,â€ Sarchet said.
By Maj. Mike Humphreys
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division