Before Lieutenant Colonel Bramwell and his civil affairs team got to Ar Ramadi, Iraq, military leaders were spending millions on various projects. The projects were helpful, but unfortunately, there was no unifying effort between commanders and government officials. Often the communities would be left with dozens of schools and clinics built by the military, but no doctors or teachers to keep them operating.
This is where Bramwell came in. First, he helped establish a four-step process that would transition money from the U.S. military to the Iraqi government. This would allow the Iraqi government to take more control of their expenses.
“We wanted them to become a functioning government. That’s what [the U.S. military is] there for,” he said. “We want to train them to utilize their funds properly and to legitimize the government, … so [Iraqi] people would look to them instead of the U.S. military.”
He wanted to establish an attitude where people felt they could look to their government for help and also feel safe about complaining to their government.
“We trained the lower folks to go ahead and complain up because you’re allowed to now, before they weren’t allowed to,” Bramwell said.
Along with helping the government take more control, Bramwell also helped start several employment programs in Iraq. Unemployment has become a very serious problem in the country. Young men are often restricted from marriage because they cannot find a job. As a result, they often turn to violence.
“We just thought, ‘Let’s just start by creating some jobs and watch what happens—and we’ll start by just picking up garbage’,” he said.
They began by purchasing tractors and hiring a few hundred men to pick up trash around the city. Soon, they began to hire people to build a storage unit that could house the equipment, guards to protect the equipment, dispatchers to monitor the workers, a janitor to clean the building, and workers to maintain the equipment.
“We ended up, just with that trash program, employing about 2,200 people a month and that’s not just people—in reality it’s about 2,200 families. That means something more than just a school or clinic, because it’s money—it’s food on their table,” he said.
As an LDS serviceman, Lieutenant Colonel Bramwell also had a very unique perspective on the efforts to bring more freedom to the people in Iraq and other Arab countries.
“I really believe that the real reason we’re [in Iraq] is to open up the Arab world to the preaching and teaching of the gospel,” he said.
While serving, Bramwell was able to give away three copies of the Book of Mormon, and he said he felt the Spirit everyday while in the midst of the Iraqi people. “The Melchizedek Priesthood is [in Iraq] in a way it hasn’t been in a very long time,” he said. “I think this is a great opportunity for the Church to enter. I know the Lord loves these people, and that’s why I know that this is the inevitable outcome.”