I moved from Camp Charlie to Camp Allenby (both part of Camp Basra in Basra,Iraq) where the UK forces camp reside along with a few American officers. For the next two weeks Phin and I, are embedded with Navy Captain Robert Lansden who is the head of the civil military operations center, a bastion of optimism equipped with an American can do attitude. Lansden who heads the operation made the decision to come to Iraq not long after Katrina and has been here ever since using his knowledge of all
things maritime, from law to the environment, to help make a difference. During Katrina's aftermath, as Captain of the Pollux, Lansden acted heroically by turning the ship into a comfort and aid station, housing first responders, providing fuel to hospitals and doing what ever he could to assist those most in need. There are numerous parallels to the greater New Orleans region and Basrah province, including issues involving the wetlands, saltwater intrusion, the seafood industry, an active port and high levels of crime that breed in housing projects. Lansden believes working with Iraqis, helping them get on their feet from the ground up, is not merely
protocol, but the only way to give democracy a fighting chance in Iraq.
After five months of training an Iraqi team- Lansden's team rolls of the base each time with an Iraqi unit. All future coalition civil projects have Iraqi involvement, with the Iraqi's in the forefront whenever possible. One example is The Shatt Al Arab Bridge, which is the largest civil engineering project to date in Iraq, being built with Iraqi money is under the guidance of Capt. Lansden's team. Lansden believes this approach will prepare the Iraqis to continue after the Americans pull out.
Lansden team is very hands on. His team deals with civil projects as immediate need arises. If his team drives by a backed-up sewer, that is contaminating the city, they write up a report and propose a solution. VP elects Biden stopped first at Camp Basra on Jan 12 during his mission and met with Lansdsen. Programs like Lansden's illustrate the new stage the war is in- reconstruction and stabilization of Iraqi society . Utilizing Iraqi money due the current ecumenic crisis,is crucial to the
war effort now. To maintain Iraqis' newly formed democracy, the civic works are essential.
I will be going out with his team to photograph many of their current projects, including visiting the Arab Marshland people in the wetlands, the slums in Basra ( Al-Hyyaniyah- a project built on marsh land destroyed by Sadam Hussein to punish the Shiites), a water lock system needed for keeping salt water intrusion at bay, good will programs for Iraqi military ( set up by the American), to go to remote villages to hand out toys and blankets. I'll also be photographing are the site of The largest civil engineering project since the war began to be paid for with Iraqi funds, The Shatt Al Arab Bridge, and the Marsh Land conference (first of its' kind) on the Jan 18th .
The work of the National Guard are doing is one of the many factorsin the effort to stabilize Iraq now. The need for security continues. The National Guard provides it.
right-Captian Landsen, Father Imad and LT1 Foud Younas looking at a rendering of the Shatt Al Arab Bridge after VP elect Biden's fact finding mission to Basra