Airman helps Iraqis bury past, rebuild future

U.S. Air Forces Central, Baghdad Media Outreach Team
Story by Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham

Date: 04.06.2009
Posted: 04.06.2009 05:08
News ID: 32056
Airman helps Iraqis bury past, rebuild future

BAGHDAD – It has been said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But a group of Iraqi contractors, with the help of an Airmen, are taking a different approach. They are burying the past to rebuild a new future.

The past, in this case, are three villas located in the International Zone, two of which once belonged to Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday. Known for his brutality, Uday often used these villas to torture, rape and murder many of his victims. For the Iraqis still here, the buildings have become an eyesore and constant reminder of the tyrant, until now.

With the help of Capt. Michelle Sterling, Joint Area Support Group – Central project payment officer, the villas are now being demolished to make room for a new foreign embassy.

"This villa was once lived in by a bath party member. And the villas next door, which we are also demolishing, belonged to Uday Hussein. And what we are doing is bringing them back down to a level site. And the Saudi's are actually going to build their embassy here," said Sterling, who is deployed from Langley Air Force base, Va., and is originally from Navarre, Fla.

As the contracting officer and technical evaluator for the demolition, Sterling has a dual role in the demo process.

"Essentially this is Iraqi money. It's an Iraqi project and they came to us and said, 'please help us meet our needs and our requirements with this project.' So I am acting as the contracting officer and as the technical evaluator," she said. "In this capacity I obligated the government, I signed the purchase request I and authorized the change orders."

The demolition, which should be complete by mid April, is on schedule and according to Tommy Tuliao, First Iraqi Construction Company and project manager for the demo, is a very important venture for him and the Iraqi people.

"It is very important for us," he said. "We are providing jobs to the Iraqis and helping them rebuild their country."

Sterling said demolishing the villas is not only important to the Iraqis in a business sense but also in removing it from the front of the Iraqis minds.

"He [Uday Hussein] was pretty infamous for how sadistic he was to anybody who wasn't in his good graces. So this is a place where a lot of terrible things happened. And to be able to demolish it and remove it from the Iraqis psyche, I think is important," she said. "I think it's a good thing to get rid of some of the more painful parts of their past. You can't ignore history, especially in this part of the world; but to be able to start over again is important."