Visiting The Neighbors, Bearing Gifts Of Goodwill
August 29, 2007
Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment is responsible for security in a very poor section of the Adhamiyah neighborhood in Baghdad. 1LT John Gassmann feels that not only do they have to maintain the security of the neighborhood, but it’s also imperative that they build a relationship of trust and confidence with the local people. The Soldiers he commands work hard to do just that every day, as they go about their daily duties. Other than the fact that he’s heavily armed and dressed in combat gear and body armor, with several Soldiers at his side, 1LT Grossmann, is just like any other neighbor, paying a visit. He stops by to visit his “neighbors” in Adhamiyah on a daily basis. Many times he even brings gifts with him.
Troops preparing to hand out humanitarian aid (photo by Sgt. Mike Pryou, 2nd BCT, 2nd Airborne Div)
“”we’re just going through the neighborhood introducing ourselves, seeing if there are any progblems and seeing if there’s anything we can do to help,” Gassman says, to Ahmad Ali as he visits the home. His Soldiers are busy carrying in bags of rice, flour and beans into the house.
Gassmann feels strongly that it’s important to get to know the people of the neighborhood they patrol. Instead of crusing the streets of the neighborhood in an uparmored Humvee, he spends most of his time inside the living rooms of the residents, sipping team and talking with them. His platoon also makes it a point to hand out humanitarian aid to the people at each house that they visit. For some of the families, the bags of supplies are a lifeline for them, as many are very poor. Gassman feels that because it’s stressful for the residents to have armed men arrive on their doorsteps, the humanitarian aid helps to ease that stress, by showing the residents that the Troops mean them no harm.
Soldier bearing gifts of rice, flour and beans. (Photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Div)
“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.
“It puts them a little more at ease and lets them know we’re here to help,” he said.
On August 21st the platoon handed out around 50 bags of foodstuff during a joint patrol. They visited house after house, following the same routine. A quick search was conducted and then the brought in the figts of food. Gassmann would sit down with the owners to discuss any concerns they had. Gassmann also made it a point to give the residents his contact information, so that they could contact him if they needed anything.
1LT Gassmann providing resident with his contact information during a visit. (Photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT 82nd Airborne Div)
“If you ever need anything, just give me a call,” Gassman told the families. “We’ll help you in any way that we can.”
Gassmann stressed that they might not leave a house with information about insurgent activity, but that he felt those visits were still extremely important. He was laying the groundwork towards developing a relationship of trust and respect with the residents, that might someday pay off with information.
“What we’re really trying to do is build a trust between us and the people in the area,” Gassman said.