By Sgt. Zach Mott
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
BAGHDAD – Backyard swimming pools are such a staple of most American towns that few even think to wonder about what life would be like without one nearby.
For most people in Iraq, a dip in the local watering hole is either impossible or involves tempting fate in the ancient Tigris or Euphrates rivers.
"This is the only swimming pool in Adhamiyah district. All of the children go to the river, and that's very dangerous for them," said Muhtad Hasan, a member of the Support Council of Adhamiyah who works with youth and education.
The project to refurbish the pool and recreation complex began in March under the direction of the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. That unit recently completed its 15-month tour in Iraq and was replaced by the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which oversaw the project's final days.
The $150,000-venture helped re-open the pool after violence and subsequent damage from criminals left the facility uninhabitable more than three years ago.
During the opening festivities, children ran around the deck with smiles and happily showboated acrobatic feats to gain the attention of the ceremony attendees.
"It's really money well-spent when you look at the thrill that it's given these kids," said Lt. Col. Daniel Barnett, a Willard, Ohio, native, who commands 1st Squadron, 2nd SCR, which is currently attached to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad.
The adjoining recreation center has a boxing ring, a weight room and wrestling mats for children to practice their specific sport of choice.
"It's an ongoing project," Barnett said. "One of the first things they asked for, as far as community projects, was to get this pool re-established so the kids didn't have to swim in the river."
Temperatures in Iraq historically surpass 130 degrees during the unrelenting summer. For the Soldiers who patrol these streets in northern Baghdad, the pool is a welcome sight to help the people they're here to protect.
"This is a good example of what cooperation with the local government officials, the Iraqi army, with the coalition forces – what we can all do together to improve the quality of life here," Barnett said.
"Every time a Soldier walks by on a patrol here, he's going to say 'Hey, you know, we helped facilitate that. We helped make a difference.'"