by Staff Sgt. Les Newport
76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
BALAD, Iraq (June 23, 2008) — Joint Base Balad marked the beginning of a new program to spur progress in Iraq in the provinces surrounding the installation. A ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, Adjutant General of the Indiana National Guard, Brig. Gen. Gregory E. Couch, commander of the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and Sheik Shihab Ahmed Saleh Al-Tamimi commemorated the opening of the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone (I-BIZ) Service Center, Basateen Al-Dejayl General Training and Contracting Company, ltd., at Joint Based Balad. The initiative is being spearheaded by the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indiana Army National Guard.
“We are proud to call Iraqis our wonderful allies and we wish you the very, very best in your new venture,” said Umbarger. “Here is a local sheik very well respected in his community, able to create a business and work in conjunction with us as his allies.”
The center was selected as the first of several initiatives to provide local Iraqi business leaders with opportunities to tap into valuable military contracts, and provide a secure environment to grow their business. “To fulfill what Gen. Petraeus’ dream was when he came here, and that is to get the Iraqi people the opportunity to work in their country and to take back the opportunity so they can support their own families,” said Couch. “So this is the beginning of a great partnership and I too, as I’m getting ready to leave here, wish all great success to the Sheik and the rest of the Iraqi partners that join in on the IBIZ function,” he said.
Col. Courtney Carr, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander said the initiative is tied to a theater-wide initiative to drive business and economic prosperity to the local economy. Significant improvements in the security of the local area, led by local Iraqi leaders, are the key that allows us to pursue these economic opportunities. “We want to support Iraqi business so they can flourish throughout the regions,” said Carr. “The types of businesses we have selected to support are the types of businesses that can provide products and services that are needed at the base and that can also prosper outside the base.”
Coalition forces expect, and in some cases have already received, dividends in return for investments made in the IBIZ initiative. Col. Kenneth Newlin, Deputy Brigade commander and I-BIZ Program Director, sees the program as a natural progression of security and stability operations. “The leaders and centers of influence that we are partnering with in establishing these businesses have the ability to influence economic progress and prosperity in Iraq. This program allows us to consolidate recent security gains made in the region by the local and national government that a year ago would not have been possible,” said Newlin.
In addition to the service center, which will provide maintenance for non-tactical vehicles owned by coalition forces, JBB has plans for a host nation business center, shipping container remanufacturing facility, an industrial, wholesale, and retail facilities, and a vocational training program.
Col. Kenneth Newlin meets with local leader Sheik Shehab Ahmed Saleh Al-Tamimi on June 17 during the commemoration of a service center aimed at improving Iraqi-based industry. (Army photo by Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III).