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Iraqis line up for business grants
Sierra Vista Herald/Bisbee Review ^ | Bill Hess Embed w/40th Exped. Sig Bn.

Posted on 01/04/2008 4:44:17 PM PST by SandRat

PATROL BASE CORREGIDOR, Iraq — When a platoon of soldiers returned to this small Army outpost in Iraqi farmland Thursday afternoon, the group’s leader had 30 requests for business grants.

Sitting in a meeting room of Sheik Hatim Mehow’s house, 1st Lt. Wyatt Ottmar had a number of local residents lined up to be questioned why their micro-grant should be approved.

Initially expecting 15 applicants, people kept arriving with grant forms filled in until double the number of applicants anticipated arrived, as Ottmar and his senior noncommissioned officer Sgt. 1st Class William Genthner took turns going through the forms and asking the applicants their background in the businesses they were proposing.

“It’s a filtering process,” the lieutenant said.

It also was the first time a more formal way of obtaining applications was used instead of having sheiks gather and turn them in, said Ottmar, who leads 3rd Platoon, Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Fort Campbell, Ky. “I like this process better,” he said.

What is being sought are applications for the grants that can range up to $2,500, approved at the battalion level, that “will jump start the economy to benefit the community,” Ottmar said. Higher grant amounts can be issued up the chain of command.

Looking at the Iraq government’s eventual disbanding of Concerned Local Citizens auxiliary guards being paid for by the U.S. government to help provide security, there must be other jobs available, the lieutenant said.

Two Concerned Local Citizens checkpoints, one manned by Shi’ites and the other by Sunnis, were near the sheik’s home.

The distrust between the two Muslim sects is still palpable in the area, although Shi’ites and Sunnis profess they want to get along and live together.

Finding Iraqis who want to start a business that will hire others is the main reason for the micro-grant program, and it is at the platoon level that initial contacts are made. Without building the economy, trouble can once again break out, Ottmar said. “We want to keep them off the streets and busy,” he said, adding the micro-grant program has been in existence for a little more than two months.

However, no money has yet filtered down, as final decisions on requests are being reviewed, Ottmar said. “We’re taking baby steps. It’s a detailed process,” he said. Fortunately, Iraqis “have pretty good patience,” the platoon leader said, noting “Americans want an answer now.”

The Iraqi philosophy is that if God wills it, it will happen, Ottmar said.

For Sheik Hatim, he is taking a big risk in working with Americans.

A man with an easy smile, who constantly repeats the word hello, the sheik raises his right hand in a salute, shakes hands with his guests and touches his heart.

Ottmar said security is good in his area, but the sheik is worried that if economic actions are not taken soon, turmoil may return to the primarily agricultural area. “We need more projects, more schools, more clinics,” the sheik said through a young interpreter from Baghdad.

The needs are great, and the needs are for everything, the tribal leader said.

Ottmar said the American Army recognizes the importance of sheiks in Iraqi culture — they are the people to go to get things done.

“We work through the local sheiks,” he said.

The sheik said the Concerned Local Citizens checkpoints have brought stabilization to a once inflamed and troubled area.

A year ago, the area was controlled by al Qaida in Iraq “and nobody could speak (their mind),” Sheik Hatim said.

The local residents fought the foreign fighters “imported to the area, and the people are safe,” he said. The support of the coalition forces — read American Army — helps keep the peace, said the Shi’ite sheik in a predominately Sunni area.

At the end of more than two hours in the sheik’s house, Ottmar had a number of requests, some of which he said he doubts will make the cut because they are geared to help a family with food or to buy more animals as a show of wealth.

However, a few are interesting, such as the man who wants to paint vehicles, one who wants to open a plumbing business, and one who is interested in starting a bus company to transport students to school and women to markets. “That transportation one is really interesting,” Genthner said.

herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; US: Arizona; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: business; frwn; grants; iraqis

1 posted on 01/04/2008 4:44:22 PM PST by SandRat
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To: 91B; HiJinx; Spiff; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; clintonh8r; TEXOKIE; windchime; Grampa Dave; ...
If you would like to be added to / removed from FRWN,
please FReepmail Sandrat.


2 posted on 01/04/2008 4:45:03 PM PST by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat

Hearts & minds & wallets is what always matters.

3 posted on 01/04/2008 5:17:31 PM PST by prophetic
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To: prophetic

Gee, I’d like $2,500 to start a business.

4 posted on 01/04/2008 5:24:21 PM PST by Callahan
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To: prophetic

More money down a rat hole. Since when does government create prosperity?

5 posted on 01/04/2008 5:25:26 PM PST by Pining_4_TX
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To: SandRat

Some of this money will end up in car bombs and suicide bomb vests.

6 posted on 01/04/2008 6:15:42 PM PST by Spirochete
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To: SandRat

Some of this money will end up in car bombs and suicide bomb vests.

7 posted on 01/04/2008 6:17:33 PM PST by Spirochete
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To: Pining_4_TX

Guess we have to get them addicted to BIG GOVERNMENT and if all else fails SOCIALISM - like U.S..

8 posted on 01/04/2008 6:34:17 PM PST by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God) .)
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