November 22nd, 2006 03:43 EST
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. BOLT helps secure Iraqis future
RADWANIYAH, Iraq " Mohamad, an Iraqi farmer, found it difficult enough to survive on what produce he could eke out of his small desert farm. But when some of the carefully constructed irrigation channels were destroyed, he had no way to provide for his family.
Mohamad`s land was partially destroyed when the U.S. Army closed roads for military purposes. While the roads were closed a vehicle drove across his land, caving in the canal and stopping the water flow to his crops. Mohamad had nowhere to turn " except to the U.S. Army`s Brigade Operational Law Team for help.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, claims mission plays a vital role in promoting and maintaining friendly relations with the local Iraqi people.
Money is essentially another weapon system on the battlefield, " said Capt. Nate Hummel, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., who serves as the 2nd BCT`s appointed, single-member, Foreign Claims Commission. Not only are we living up to our moral and legal obligations in taking responsibility for our actions, but we truly are helping the Iraqi people.
"The BOLT is able to help the Iraqis under the provisions of the Foreign Claims Act."
The FCA allows compensation for local nationals who suffer damage, injury or death as a result of non-combat activities, negligent or wrongful acts or omissions committed by the U.S. military personnel.
The (FCA) is good because we are trying to do some right to the accident that was done, " said Staff Sgt. Daniel Davis II, a native of Nashville who serves as the 2nd BCT BOLT noncommissioned officer in charge and the claims pay agent.
Sometimes this is their only livelihood and their only means of survival. Our claims mission is primarily to help the Iraqi people. "
Every week the BOLT works hand-in-hand with the Iraqi claims personnel to provide assistance to the locals at either the Radwaniyah Palace Complex`s Civil Military Operations Center or Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, southwest of Baghdad.
The CMOC is fully staffed with several Iraqi interpreters, claims specialists and attorneys who review clams and assist in advising claimants on collection or proper documents, photographs and other pieces of evidence.
When the locals come here (for help) we make sure to treat them in a good way and help them try and find a solution for their current situation, " said Saladean, the CMOC general information manager. We try to help them so they can progress their future. "
While the Iraqi claims specialist and attorneys play a vital role in making sure the claims are legitimate, the paperwork is filled out correctly and the proper evidence is submitted the BOLT is hard at work ensuring the claims are paid.
We try and make sure the claims are paid in a timely manner, " said Spc. Patrick Burtt-Henderson, the 2nd BCT claims paralegal specialist and native of Whitman, Mass. We want to establish a good relationship with the locals. "
Since the 2nd BCT has arrived in Iraq, only a few months ago, the BOLT has helped many Iraqis, but all cases do not get approved.
A difficult part of the job is when we have to deny claims that do not qualify under the FCA (Foreign Claims Act) due to the combat exclusion, " Hummel said. Many local nationals find themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time - caught in crossfire or escalation of force incidents, where U.S. Soldiers were doing their job and following the rules of engagement. "
Although some of the locals` claims do not get approved, the BOLT tries to help (the Iraqis) in any way they can.
Sometimes there are other avenues if the FCA doesn`t apply. One of these alternatives is using a Commander`s Emergency Relief Program (CERP) funded condolence payment, " Hummel explained. Condolence payments are unique, in that they serve a "solace-like` purpose. Often used to express sympathy and offer immediate and urgent humanitarian assistance. "
It is important that the locals build bonds with the United States so they will not turn to terrorist for help.
I trust the people of the United States and I believe they don`t want to do anything bad to the Iraqi people, " Mohamad said. They want to help the Iraqi people. "
Since the U.S. Army helped Mohamad he decided to join the Iraqi Army.
Since I have seen the (U.S.) military helping the Iraqis I wanted to do something for my people, " Mohamad said. I have already got my identification card and I am joining the IA. "
Mohamad was just one of the many locals who the BOLT has helped. Each week at least 50 locals ask for help.
Paying these claims to the locals helps promote and maintain friendly relations in the 2nd BCT`s AO, " Hummel added. This builds upon the local population`s trust and confidence in us (the U.S. Army).
"The BOLT will continue to run weekly meetings with the Iraqis throughout the deployment to help the Iraqis with their claims.