News: Refurbished school opens in Al Waheda
By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Children in Al Waheda received more than pencils and paper on the first day of school. They were given a refurbished school.
"The community continued to educate the children, despite not having a place to go," Sheik Juwad Al Shimmari, the Waheda city council chairman, said through a translator. "But now we have this beautiful school and we are very grateful to Coalition Forces and the city council for giving us the resources to rebuild."
Leaders of Company C and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, and the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, a reserve unit from Knoxville, Tenn., currently attached to the 1-15th Inf. Regt. attended a school opening in Al Waheda Nov. 12.
Al Shimmari held the event. He invited local leaders, leaders of the Al Karrar national police brigade, and 1-15th Inf. Regt. leaders and Soldiers to walk through the newly refurbished school.
According to Maj. Greg Lester, from Knoxville, Tenn., team chief for team 911, 489th CA, the city council made the decision to refurbish the school. The 1-15th Inf. Regt. was responsible for funding the project and coordinating with local contractors for bids. The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, approved the project.
Local contractors took approximately 90 days to renovate the structure of the school, paint the walls, fix the plumbing and electricity, and install new doors and windows.
"It was not very difficult," Marmas said. "The school was broken but we did our best to do what we did. I am very proud."
Lester is certain the project will prove beneficial for everyone in the community, including the 1-15th Inf. Regt. Soldiers who provide security in the area.
"Refurbishing the school provides jobs for local contractors and laborers," he said. "It builds rapport between Coalition Forces and the local community and city council. It gives the community pride to have such a nice school in Al Waheda."
Besma Mihsin, the wife of a security officer in the community, lives next door to the school and works there as a custodian. She remembers when it was a derelict building.
"I am very impressed with the progress the school has made. I remember what it used to look like," she said through a translator. "Now I can see the happiness on the faces of the kids and their families."
According to Capt. Matthew Givens, from Columbus, Ga., civilian project manager,1-15th Inf. Regt., the school still needs furniture, four more classrooms, and a teachers' lounge.
Although minor additions are still needed, both Iraqi citizens in the area and leaders from 1-15th Inf. Regt. are pleased with the outcome of the project.
"This new school gives them a chance to build the next generation," said Spc. Daniel Bell, from Sevierville, Tenn., civil affairs specialist with the 489th CA. "Every moment after this school opens will provide opportunities to turn things around."
After the walk-through, Shimmari, Givens, and Lt. Col. Jabbar from the Al Karrar national police, handed out school supplies to the students. The packets, containing coloring books, crayons, papers, pencils and other school supplies, were donated to the project from friends and families in Knoxville, Tenn.
The 1-15th Inf. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. from Fort Benning, Ga. and has been deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom V since March.