Sunday, September 28, 2003
In the north, the Az Elarab School was renovated by engineers with the 16th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team. A back-to-school party to celebrate the reopening took place Aug. 28.
Along the Euphrates River, just 15 miles south of Baghdad, soldiers from the 123rd Main Support Battalion assisted a Civil Affairs Detachment in rebuilding a local school that houses 350 students ranging in age from 7 to 14.
More than 50 of the MSB soldiers volunteered to make the small, rural schoolhouse a little nicer.
"What shocked me was the size of the classrooms," said Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Barton. "The children had to climb over the desks to get to their seats."
The school had no water source, no playground equipment, and minimal school supplies. However, with the help of artists, carpenters, and even battalion family members, all of that has changed.
Volunteers from the battalion helped build swing sets, a water tank, a playhouse, picnic tables and more. Additionally, family members back in Germany and the United States collected donations of pens, pencils, paper and other school supplies.
"Not only was this a chance to help out people who are less fortunate, it also provided an opportunity for cultural exchange," said Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Gilmore. "Helping with the school project made me realize that the Iraqi people are no different from us, just less fortunate. They were very thankful for our help and truly welcomed us."
Schools in no shape to hold class are littering Iraq, but engineers in the 16th Eng. Bn. said they are renovating and restoring as many as they can in their area of operations.
Az Elarab, one of the schools the engineers helped to restore, had been used by the Iraqi troops during the war as a defensive fighting position and was damaged by combat, said 1st Lt. Edwin Clarke, a company executive officer.
The engineers hired and worked with a local contractor, Saaddoun Hashim al Saraji. He and the engineers repaired the damage throughout the school.
The contractor replaced the plumbing fixtures - the toilets and sinks, some of which had been destroyed or taken by looters. Al Saraji installed fans and blackboards in the classrooms, as well. He also built a wall around the school to keep children away from the traffic on the busy street that runs next to the school, Clarke said.
(Editor's note: This story is a composite of articles submitted from 1st Lt. H. L. Taylor-Hartle of the 123rd Main Support Battalion and Spc. Ryan Smith from the 372nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)
1AD soldiers put Iraqis back in school