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Nineveh Civil Defense Headquarters Opens

By Pfc. Chris Jones, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

MOSUL, Iraq, Nov. 10, 2003 – The headquarters for all fire stations in the Nineveh province of Northern Iraq opened Oct. 30 after soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) helped to rebuild it.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A stash of various improvised explosive devices found by members of the Mosul Fire Department sits on display at the new Nineveh Civil Defense Headquarters in Mosul. Coalition forces have taught Mosul's firefighters not only to protect citizens from fires, but also to keep a watch for other dangers, such as explosives on the streets. Photo by Pfc. Chris Jones, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Two months of work and more than $40,000 of coalition funds were put into restoration efforts of the Nineveh Civil Defense Headquarters in Mosul, which will oversee and support all fire stations in the Nineveh region. A six- soldier team with the 431st Civil Affairs Battalion -- an Army Reserve unit attached to the 101st -- directed the project. Public Safety Team chief and full-time civilian firefighter 1st Lt. William Smith said he witnessed "a complete improvement" of the headquarters building from the project's Sept. 1 beginning.

Besides repainting cracked walls, upgrading sewage pumps and electrical lines, fixing broken windows and making other repairs, the soldiers also brought in donated amenities such as computers, televisions and even improved mattresses for the firefighters' beds. With shifts of 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off, the Iraqi firefighters need satisfactory living conditions in the headquarters, Smith said.

Col. Joseph Anderson, commander of the 101st's 502nd Infantry Regiment, toured the facility and applauded province fire chief Brig. Gen. Ahmed Selaman for the progress between coalition forces and Iraqi public safety officials in Northern Iraq.

"Public safety is the coalition's first priority," said Anderson to a crowd of Iraqi firefighters. "That will probably never change. It's the most important thing for the safety of Iraqi citizens right now. Firefighting is a dangerous job, and we honor you all as heroes."

During Saddam Hussein's regime, the headquarters building also housed Mosul's only fire station. But when coalition officials saw that Iraq's third-largest city had only one firefighting post, the demand arose to build a separate station so fire support could be more efficient. This demand led to the construction of the Ibn Al Atheer Fire Station, which engineers contracted by the 101st still are building.

Work on the headquarters building isn't yet complete, either. It was built on uneven ground about 60 years ago, and the earth below has settled, causing cracks in the concrete, Smith said. Damage to the front ramp took $5,000 to repair, while several large gaps in the pavement behind the building will require an additional $23,000, he said.

Wameedh Wagee, project engineer, said the station looked as if it had been deeply neglected before help from the 101st.

"The situation for the building was awful," he said, "because Saddam ignored all civil defense departments. I could tell by looking at the place that no work was done on it for at least 15 years. Now I feel that all the firefighters know that someone is taking care of them and also making a station suitable for them according to the kind of job they do for the city."

Wagee and his 22-man team will now head back to work for the Mosul Public Safety Academy, the first training post in the city's history to merge the training of police, firefighting and emergency medical assistance personnel, and traffic enforcement and investigations. The academy, while already open, has several additions still in the works, including indoor and outdoor gun ranges, Wagee said.

"When I say these good things about what coalition forces are doing for us, I am hoping that everyone will see how much it means to us," he said.

(Army Pfc. Chris Jones is assigned to the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)


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