Sunday, July 31, 2005

US Army Sheiks It Up In Iraq

US Army SSGT Dale L. Horn is making a difference in Iraq:

Sheik Horn floats around the room in white robe and headdress, exchanging pleasantries with dozens of village leaders. But he's the only sheik with blonde streaks in his mustache - and the only one who attended country music star Toby Keith's recent concert in Baghdad with fellow U.S. soldiers.


Horn ... was now thrust into a job that largely hinged on coaxing locals into divulging information about insurgents.

Horn ... acknowledges he had little interest in the region before coming here. But a local sheik friendly to U.S. forces, Dr. Mohammed Ismail Ahmed, explained the inner workings of rural Iraqi society on one of Horn's first Humvee patrols.

Horn says he was intrigued, and started making a point of stopping by all the villages, all but one dominated by Sunni Arabs, to talk to people about their life and security problems.

Moreover, he pressed for development projects in the area: he now boasts that he helped funnel $136,000 worth of aid into the area. Part of that paid for delivery of clean water to 30 villages during the broiling summer months.

"They saw that we were interested in them, instead of just taking care of the bases," Horn said.

Mohammed, Horn's mentor and known for his dry sense of humor, eventually suggested during a meeting of village leaders that Horn be named a sheik. The sheiks approved by voice vote, Horn said.

Some sheiks later gave him five sheep and a postage stamp of land, fulfilling some of the requirements for sheikdom. Others encouraged him to start looking for a second wife, which Horn's spouse back in Florida immediately vetoed.

But what may have originally started as a joke among crusty village elders has sprouted into something serious enough for 100 to 200 village leaders to meet with Horn each month to discuss security issues. ...

The whole article is worth the read.

Good on ya, Staff Sergeant!

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