FOB LOYALTY, Iraq, August 17, 2006 - Baghdad has a fire department that does more than fight fires - it fights terrorism.
Built with the help of 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, the department is staffed with Iraqis who are taking charge of their own safety.
New to the emerging government but not new to firefighting, COL Laith, director for the Iraqi Civil Defense Headquarters and Control Center, has overseen the building of the Baghdad Fire Department. The "Tomahawks" of 4-320th have provided materials and expertise; Laith has provided the motivation and the men.
The result is a "command and control" headquarters much like the American 911 system. Firefighters respond to a number of emergencies, including fires, explosions and terrorists' attacks. The firefighters also take on extra responsibilities in a combat zone, responding to discoveries of unexploded ordnance. They must ensure proper disposal of these dangerous pieces of artillery and other weapons which did not explode when fired.
By containing fires that may have otherwise spread across the city, their efforts have prevented millions of dollars in damage. Local citizens, including families whose houses have been saved from destruction are praising the firemen for their courage.
Khadim Mansour is a Baghdad resident whose family is grateful. On a hot July afternoon, an electrical fire started in his home in a neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, said Mansour.
The chief of the local fire station, Abbas Asfir Namah, responded with his men. The firefighters charged up the stairs toward the second-story fire and extinguished it in time to save the home.
The 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, has supplied water, phone lines and security to help the fire department In addition to installing barriers to improve security at the ICDC compound.
The fire department building has been renovated, with new living space for firefighters and a well system to maintain water. A pit for unexploded mortars has been built outside the station, and the MND-B has assisted in helping clear over 10,000 hazardous rounds from the pit.
No fire department would be complete without a truck, and these Baghdad firefighters have a new one to carry water. With a combination of their own bravery and "Tomahawk" aid, the ICDC will be protecting the residents of Baghdad from both the forces of nature and the forces of terrorism for years to come, said LTC Kevin Milton, commander, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment.
In addition to saving houses, these Iraqis provide benefits
that are harder to put a price on. Their service has brought
confidence, strength, and unity to the community, said Namar.