Just about six weeks out of his second tour in Iraq, Army Col. Don Farris came to the Dole Institute of Politics on Wednesday to share his recent experiences in Sadr City, a Shiite district in Baghdad.
The Texas native returned from a 15-month deployment in which he commanded the 2nd Falcon Brigade Combat Team of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, the first brigade to go to Baghdad under the surge initiative.
Bill Lacy, director of the Dole Institute, interviewed Farris during the program, which was titled "Leading the Surge: The View From Sadr City." The event was co-sponsored by the Kansas University-Fort Leavenworth Program.
Farris described the area as impoverished and densely populated, with more than 3 million people. He said that when he arrived, essential services, like utilities, were dismantled and violence was prevalent.
Lacy asked about the main accomplishments in Farris' 15 months in the Sadr City district. Farris said he witnessed how the "quality of life of Iraqis changed" by the time he left. His troops created almost 27 miles of cement barriers in neighborhoods to serve as protection, which enabled the areas to flourish, he said.
"I'm very proud we were able to do that," he said.
Another positive factor was the grant money given to business owners, which helped them restock their shelves and put glass in their windows, Farris said.
During his 15 months, his troops also captured 1,200 insurgents.
"I think the experience he's had is an invaluable opportunity for citizens to be better informed," Lacy said to the approximately 60 people in attendance.