of Hope Students Keep Canals Flowing in Iraq
American Forces Press Service
BASE KALSU, Iraq — Students of the Village of Hope in Hawr Rajab,
Iraq, began cleaning irrigation canals in the area June 26 in an
effort to improve the flow of fresh water to nearby farms.
of the Village of Hope help clean an irrigation canal
near Hawr Rajab, Iraq. The students
learn construction skills and repair damaged buildings
in the program, and also help keep their community clean.
The Village of Hope is a program that teaches construction
skills to former members of the “Sons of Iraq” citizen
security group. The new skills help them transition to other
productive jobs in their community.
the 577th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron — RED HORSE is
short for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair
Squadron Engineers — teach classes of about 50 students at
a time at a training facility at Patrol Base Stone in Hawr
Hope students were asked to assist the community with maintenance
of irrigation canals. Keeping them clean and flowing is a necessary
task, Air Force Capt. Michael Askegren, officer in charge of
the Village of Hope program, said.
benefit is for the agricultural community,” Askegren
explained. “This is a rural community that relies heavily
on agriculture and farming industries. By cleaning out the
canals, they are helping to make sure that the water flowing
to the fields is going to be good.”
200 students are enrolled in Village of Hope. Students work
at community projects similar to cleaning the canals while
they wait for their turn in the class rotation.
opportunities outside of farming are scarce for young men in
the area, Askegren said. The Village of Hope provides new job
skills and an income for former members of the Sons of Iraq.
Askegren estimated only about one-third of former Sons of Iraq
would be able to get jobs in the Iraqi security forces.
got to find other employment, other skills, to get these guys
employed and keep them employed — to give them trades that
will carry them through the future,” Askegren said.
to cleaning the canals, the captain said, Village of Hope students
soon will work on renovating homes and take on larger construction
projects to benefit the community.
of Hope instructors work with the Hawr Rajab town council to
determine which projects are needed most.
got the second task order awarded [June 26] for students to
continue work downtown, and we’re already working on
the next project, which will be the renovation of the Alma-an
Boys School. We hope to have that [contract] awarded as soon
as next week,” Askegren said. “We’re definitely
moving into the full swing, as far as getting construction
said that while the Village of Hope currently is funded only
through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, he expects it
to continue into 2009.