On the Ground: Americans Build Schools, Communities in Iraq
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2009 U.S. servicemembers in Iraq are building communities and goodwill as their role there increasingly shifts to helping the Iraqis toward sovereignty.
Army Maj. Jason Joose, third from right, stands with Iraqi officials at the groundbreaking for Saad High School in Baghdad’s Salman Pak community, Feb. 3, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kevin Holden
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
U.S. soldiers in recent days started renovations on a high school and transferred a police station to Iraqi leaders in and around Baghdad, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working with 20 partners, turned over a newly renovated prison in northern Iraq.
In Baghdad’s Salman Pak community, local leaders came together Feb. 3 to dedicate the beginning of construction and refurbishment of the Saad High School. The 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is overseeing the reconstruction as part of a $2 million contract to improve the area’s schools, expand a canal and provide grants to small businesses.
“The time is right for this project,” said Army Maj. Jason Joose, executive officer for the brigade’s 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion. “The members of this community made a choice to renounce the insurgency and step away from violence. When they did that, we made a decision to move forward with large-scale projects in our zone.”
The refurbishment will equip the school with energy-efficient windows, door insulation, and new air-conditioning units in each classroom.
“The school will accommodate 1,200 students in 23 classrooms with 25 faculty members, with space for boys from the third through ninth grade,” Muhameed Saleh, the head contractor on the project, said.
The Commanders Emergency Relief Program provided the $320,000 for the refurbishment.
“In the last four years, the security situation would not have permitted a project like this. But now with the improving security in this neighborhood, I can start a 90-day project and employ 25 to 30 [workers] from the community,” Abrahim Kazem, a project engineer, said.
In Awad, northwest of Baghdad, soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team transferred a joint security station to the Iraqi police in support of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.
Although the station is small, with barely more than 100 Iraqi policemen, the transition was a visible milestone in the effort to create a safe, stable Iraq completely controlled by Iraqis.
"This security is felt throughout all Iraq," Iraqi police Gen. Amad Ismael, commander of the Taji district headquarters, said. "We are restoring Iraq's prosperity in spite of criminals who shed Iraqi blood. We are dusting ourselves off and moving on to accomplish the true dreams of Iraqi people."
The station was a dilapidated school used by insurgents to stage attacks before coalition forces moved in. Although it's now an Iraqi police station, the police eventually will return it to the Education Ministry, officials said.
Soldiers from the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, helped to patrol and rebuild the area for the last 14 months.
"This transition has been a long time coming," Army Lt. Col. Thomas Boccardi, the battalion’s commander, said while speaking to a “Sons of Iraq” civilian security group leader. "We've been partners with the police here for quite some time, and with a partnership you have shared risk and responsibilities."
In Chamchamal, in northern Iraq, the Gulf Region North district of the Corps of Engineers celebrated the completion of a $27.4 million design and renovation to turn an old fort into a modern prison.
The Corps of Engineers began the project in November 2007 and included 20 partners, including the U.S. State Department, the American Red Cross, Iraqi contractors and all levels of Iraqi government.
The project was completed on schedule and within budget, and much of that success is due to the partnering efforts, Army Col. Margaret Burcham, Gulf Region North district commander, said. She credited the "growing synergy between the partners for successful completion of the project."
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)