1st Cavalry News
Soldiers come bearing food & supplies for visits with Adhamiyah residents
By Sgt. Mike Pryor
2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs
BAGHDAD – Other than the fact that he is heavily armed, dressed in body armor, and flanked by several Soldiers, 1st Lt. John Gassmann shows up at Ahmad Ali’s doorstep just like any friendly new neighbor. He even brought a gift.
“We’re just going through the neighborhood introducing ourselves, seeing if there are any problems, and seeing if there’s anything we can do to help,” Gassmann tells Ali conversationally, as his Soldiers carry bags of rice, flour, and beans into the house.
Riley, Kan., native 1st Lt. John Gassmann, a platoon leader with Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, gives his contact information to a resident of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District after dropping off a bag of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)
Gassman’s unit, Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, is responsible for security in a poor section of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District. For the Soldiers in Gassman’s platoon, that means earning the trust and confidence of the local people through daily engagement patrols.
“The bottom line is, we can drive through this neighborhood three times a day for a year, but if we don’t stop to talk to anyone, we’ll never know anything about it,” Gassmann said.
So, instead of cruising the streets in an armored humvee, the Riley, Kan., native spends most of his time inside residents’ living rooms, sipping tea and talking. Lately, Gassmann’s platoon has also been handing out humanitarian aid bags containing rice, salt, cooking oil, and other common foodstuffs at each house they visit.
The bags are a lifeline for some of the poorer families in the area, but they’re also a gesture of goodwill on the part of the Soldiers. Having armed men show up on your doorstep unannounced – regardless of the reason – can be a little stressful, Gassmann said, so the aid bags are one way the Soldiers can show they mean no harm.
“It puts them a little more at ease and lets them know we’re here to help,” he said.
The platoon handed out around 50 of the bags during a joint patrol Aug. 21.
Norfolk, Va., native Spc. Shannon Guinn (left), and Hickory, N.C., native Sgt. Shawn Hatley, of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, carry bags of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs into a house in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)
At house after house, the routine was the same. The Soldiers conducted a quick search, then brought the food in as Gassmann sat down with the owners to discuss any concerns they might have. The conversations always ended with Gassmann offering them a card with his contact information.
“If you ever need anything just give me a call,” Gassmann told one family. “We’ll help you in any way that we can.”
The point, he said, wasn’t necessarily to leave each house with specific information about insurgents. It was to lay the groundwork for a relationship that might pay off in the future.
“What we’re really trying to do is build a trust between us and the people in the area,” Gassmann said.
Norfolk, Va., native Spc. Shannon Guinn (left) of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, and an Iraqi Army soldier prepare to hand out bags of humanitarian assistance foodstuffs to kids in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District during a patrol Aug. 21. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)