Michigan Guardsmen escort Iraqi workers at JBB

Story and photo by Spc. Michael V. Camacho
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Almost every morning, Soldiers with the 1073rd Maintenance Company out of Greenville, Mich., escort local nationals working with the Department of Public Works from the entry gate at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, onto the base.

These Soldiers escort roughly 140 to 160 Iraqis to their worksites to do post beautification, which can range from sidewalk sweeping to custodial upkeep, said 1st Lt. Joey Degrammont, the force protection platoon leader with the 1073rd Maint. Co., 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

These jobs give the Iraqis a steady source of income, said Degrammont, a Mio, Mich., native.

Despite the cultural and language differences, the Soldiers and Iraqi workers get along, said Degrammont, exhibiting a strong working relationship. Both groups are simply doing a job, and they all understand that, he said.

"There's a lot of cohesion built up between the American Soldiers and the local nationals," he said. "They have a good time, they're laughing and joking."

Although the partnership between service members and Iraqis is solid, Soldiers always maintain professionalism and military bearing, said Degrammont. This includes situational awareness at all times, keeping operational and force protection security a top priority, he said.

The Iraqis must be escorted because they do not have the proper authorization to be left alone, according to base security measures, said Sgt. 1st Class Kalvin Charania, the force protection platoon sergeant with the 1073rd Maint. Co.

The Soldiers also take care of the Iraqis, ensuring they have water and food and take breaks throughout the day, said Charania, an Alpena, Mich., native.

For consistency's sake, Soldiers work with the same local nationals on a regular basis to maintain solid, working relationships with them, he said.

The salary workers earn is enough for them to support their families and live comfortably, said Charania.

This is a joint effort between the 13th SC(E) out of Fort Hood, Texas, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and Noor Al-Belad Company, a local company, said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Patrick Galla, noncommissioned officer in charge of Troops to Task, with the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron, 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group, 332nd AEW.

The contract between the Air Force and the Noor Al-Belad Company has been a roughly six-year project, said Galla, a Traverse City, Mich., native. The 1073rd Maint. Co. provides strong support for the DPW's mission on base, he said.

The project's long-term goal is to instill strong work habits and skills in local nationals, to assist them after the U.S. military drawdown from Iraq, said Galla.

"The (local nationals) work hard, and they do an excellent job on base," said Charania.


news photo
Spc. Karen Beekman, a Department of Public Works employee escort with the 1073rd Maintenance Company, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Baldwin, Mich., native, supervises local national DPW employees April 1 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Camacho)