Thursday, May 1, 2008
U.S. soldiers work to repair Arab Jabour schools
By Sgt. Jason Stadel,
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – After months of fighting, Coalition forces in Arab Jabour have rid the area of al-Qaeda in Iraq and turned their attention to rebuilding the community.
Those efforts have opened numerous schools, water pumps and health clinics in Arab Jabour. The Islah School, Al’ula School and al-Alemia School are currently undergoing repairs in Arab Jabour.
Capt. James Anthony, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and his soldiers are overseeing the repair of the al-Alemia School in the Bayija village.
Anthony said the school was in disarray after AQI used it as a base of operations.
“The exterior walls were destroyed and whole classrooms were demolished,” said Anthony, who is from Byhalia. “All of the electrical wiring had been removed to include the generators powering the water filtration system.”
It was assessed that more than 50 percent of the area’s AQI leadership lived near the school. The battalion conducted numerous combat operations in the area, resulting in many AQI members being killed, detained or fleeing. After the operations most of the AQI leadership was gone but they left behind dangerous traps for Coalition forces and citizens.
“Multiple (improvised explosive devices) were found on the school grounds, as well as in several of the stairwells and classrooms,” Anthony said.
Company C removed the IEDs and within two days nine teachers and more than 35 students began classes, Anthony said.
Company B, 1-30th Inf. Regt. soldiers saw a similar trend at the Al’ula School in the village of Abd al-Salman. Since AQI was forced out of the area in late 2007 and early 2008, more than 800 children have returned to school.
When Anthony and his company saw the residents’ eagerness for their children to return to school they made it a priority to repair and improve the school.
Commander’s Emergency Response Program funds were secured to finance the school’s repairs, which serves as both an elementary and a primary school.
“When 1-30th Infantry (Regiment) invests its time and energy into the repair of (school) infrastructure … we are investing in the future leadership of a peaceful Iraq,” Anthony said.
To turn their attention to rebuilding schools, it requires the combat soldiers, most of whom are infantry, scouts or armor, to adjust their focus.
“It gives many of the soldiers a different look at the population,” Anthony said, adding it was hard to believe just months earlier the school was uninhabitable due to the IED threat.
Capt. Cesar Santiago, Company B executive officer, said improving education is one of the first steps in rebuilding Iraq.
“Education is one of the most vital tools to improve quality of life in this community and that begins with providing the appropriate learning environment,” said Santiago, from Coamo, Puerto Rico.
Most of the repairs at the three schools include installing new windows and doors, fixing electrical wiring, installing new sinks and toilets and providing fresh water.
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