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January 19, 2005

LtGeneral Sattler on Fallujah

Lieutenant General John Sattler, Commander, of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, gave a special briefing on the 1st MEF operations in Iraq yesterday. Here are his opening statements:

Thank you very much. And again, thanks to everyone for giving us the opportunity to go ahead and answer some questions and make a very brief opening statement. What I wanted to do is just talk about some of the atmospherics within the town of Fallujah. If you remember, on the 23rd of December, Prime Minister Allawi decided to go ahead and reintroduce the citizens of Fallujah back into the town. He made the decision we would do it one district at a time, and there are a total of 18 districts within the city. He gave us three days to get the first districts set, and then after that point, we rolled one district at a time each day.

On the first day, on the 23rd of December, just to give you an idea of how the atmospherics have changed, how the Fallujan have become more comfortable, more confident in the security environment within the town, on the first day opened up, we brought 921 citizens back through the checkpoints. Yesterday, we brought 9,400 into the city through the same five checkpoints.

On the first day we opened up, 12 government workers showed up to go and assist us with the operation. Yesterday, we had 640 government workers working side-by-side with coalition team.

On the first day, we had 192 contractors who actually signed contracts to clear up debris, to remove stagnant water, and to go ahead and work on the water plants and the lift stations within the town. So, 192 on the 23rd of the December. Yesterday, we had over 400 contractors show up. And we have been as high as over 600 in some of the contracting areas.

Humanitarian assist visits, we set up three humanitarian assistance points within the city in conjunction with the Iraqi government. On the first day, we had six visits at the humanitarian assistant sites. Yesterday, we had over 2,000 visits. And that's to pick up food, water, blankets, heaters, petroleum, water bottles, et cetera -- all the necessities that someone would need to go ahead and spend an extended period within the town.

We also just last week, we had it cleared with Prime Minister Allawi to go in and pay each head of household, and we figured there is somewhere between 32,000 and 34,000 heads of household within the town, to go ahead and pay each one of them $200. This is a humanitarian assistance payment. It's not to offset any of the damage that was done to their home, but it gives them some money in their pocket so they can go ahead and buy the necessities as they move back in to reestablish themselves within the town, or if they decide to go back to where they were staying, they'll have some money to go ahead and put in the kitty if they're staying with relatives or friends somewhere else within the country.

And the last column, when we first did this, there were two, three, four ministries that came in from the prime minister's office. We actually worked that up to 19 ministries that were working with us, side-by-side, taking the lead to go ahead and set the standards to reintroduce the citizens back to the town of Fallujah. Yesterday, we had 45 individuals show from the ministries.

So, all of the indicators, all of the movement has been in a positive direction. There's still a lot of work to be done in Fallujah. The essential services are coming back up on line. By the end of this month, we should have all the running water. The treatment plants are already functioning, and we should have running water out to all districts within the town by the end of the first week in February.

The electrical grid, we have the grid, the main power stations back up, and we have electric power going to the essential services -- the pump stations, the clinics, the hospitals. It will take a number of months to go ahead and re-string the wires throughout the town. We can't turn the entire grid on out to the individual homes right now because of the danger -- loose wires, the danger of electrocution of the women, children and men who have -- (coughs) -- excuse me -- who have now returned to the town of Fallujah.

And the last big success were the lift stations. Fallujah, part of the town is below the water table on the Euphrates, and there's a series of lift stations that keep the water table pumped back into the Euphrates River. They had all been shut down during the conflict, and now all of those lift stations are back up. And even a better story, they're all being run by minister of Municipalities. So, the Iraqi government is in fact running those lift stations with some very strong assistance from our Navy Seabees.

For the complete text of his speech,including his answers to questions from the press, read the complete transcript.

Posted by Deb at January 19, 2005 02:21 PM

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My sons leaving with the 2nd FSSG next month for Al Taqqadum. LtGen Sattler's address was enlightning and encouraging. Reading this past Sunday's headlines regarding the Abu Grabi incident boiled my blood, so I called the local newspaper and gave the copy editor an earfull. I told her; "What about the brave men and women, putting their lives on the line! The Iraqi security forces doing the same for their kin and country." Her only response was; "What good news comes out of Iraq?" Since this was a press briefing, I'm looking forward to what's in tomorrows paper. Semper Fi.

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