“Iraq is an emerging democracy in a bad neighborhood,” said Burdin Hickok, speaking at the Darien Senior Men’s Association Oct. 10.
Hickok was Economic Development Section Chief, Kirkuk Provincial Reconstruction Team, 2008-2011. He led a team of 20 civilian advisors funded by the U.S. State Department.
“Our job was to help farmers, businessmen and government agencies restart their economy and establish the rule of law,” said Hickok.
Hundreds of projects were completed. Irrigation canals were cleared, a grain silo was renovated and poultry houses were rebuilt. The northern Iraqi province is the country’s bread basket.
“Women were given a chance to plan and finance a startup business,” said Hickok. “Most Muslim societies relegate women to second-class status. Getting them involved was a challenge.”
The team helped schools, banks and retail shops get on their feet.
The biggest challenge was showing people how to control their own destiny. “They were used to being told what to do by a central government,” said Hickok.
“The Iraqi people took the lead. We were there to show the way and to act as mentors,” he continued.
Conditions for the team were tough. Dust storms and 120-degree temperatures were common. Missile attacks were frequent but badly aimed. Living quarters were mobile trailers surrounded by sand bags.
“We left for work in the morning wearing body armor and helmets,” said Hickok.” Thanks to U.S. Army armored vehicle convoys, we went out daily to meet with Iraqis.”
The team completed 600 economic aid missions in the region.
Hickok’s success with the Provincial Reconstruction Team earned him the U.S. State Department’s Superior Honor Award and the Expeditionary Service Award.
Prior to the Iraqi project, Hickok had a 20-year career in finance. He can be reached at www.BurdinHickok.com.