U.S. troops help restart Iraqi poultry plant

by Bryan Salvage
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BAGHDAD — On Oct. 31, U.S. soldiers used their agriculture and engineering expertise to help bring an idle chicken processing plant near Mahmudiyah back into operation; one that will provide food and jobs, according to Sgt. Jon Soles of the Multi-National Division Baghdad.

Possessing agribusiness and engineering backgrounds, North Carolina Guardsmen with 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, visited the al-Kien plant near Mahmudiyah to offer advice and find ways to help the plant begin operating.

Capt. Bobby Lumsden, the battalion's operations officer, walked through the plant with owner Rafea Abass Ali to inspect the plant's machinery and the massive coolers that will help keep poultry fresh. Getting the plant up and running will not only create a market for fresh chicken in the area, but will also give farmers a place to sell their chickens.

"This will be the only factory in the area with fresh frozen chicken," said Mr. Lumsden, a native of Fuquay-Varina, N.C. "Iraqis want very fresh chicken, but their choices right now are canned chicken or chicken that is imported."

The plant has the capacity to process 10,000 chickens a month and can employ up to 150 workers. Mr. Lumsden said the plant could boost the local economy and attract other investors to the area.

"It will open up this area for more agribusiness and, as we have studied, agribusiness brings more industry and factories," Mr. Lumsden said. "It will be the first step in the process to bring economic improvement to this whole area."

The al-Kien plant is close to beginning operations. The expertise offered by the National Guard soldiers will help sow the seeds of peace and stability by increasing food choices and bringing jobs to Mahmudiyah, Mr. Lumsden concluded.

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