By Spc. Ben Hutto, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 12, 2008 - Iraqi judges surveyed the new government center in Salman Pak, Iraq, on March 10, during their first visit back since 2005 when they were forced to relocate by extremist groups made the area too dangerous to remain. The facility is designed to place the courthouse, police, fire, and emergency medical services in one central location.
"We feel that the area is secure and is ready for your return," said Lt. Col. Jack Marr, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. "There will definitely be no shortage of work for you here. I was stopped three times on my way down here by citizens that have issues that need to be heard by you."
The combat team's leaders have worked with Iraqi Security Forces to secure Salman Pak since the brigade's arrival to the area last March. At the meeting, they assured the judges the area was secure.
After viewing the facility, Judge Razak, the investigative judge for the Mada'in Qada, agreed it was time for the judges to return.
"I've seen a big difference on the streets today," he said. "There are lots of people moving around on the streets. It looks better. Consider the judges back. We can be operating here in a couple of days if we can get all of our equipment and assistants here."
Razak said Salman Pak was once a peaceful place. "Foreign terrorists penetrated this place and destroyed everything we had," Razak said. "Rule of law needs to take the place of revenge here."
Army Col. Ryan J. Kuhn, the combat team's deputy commander, praised Judge Hassen, one the judges who viewed the facility, for returning to Salman Pak after being shot there three years ago.
"We talk about heroes all the time, but it is very rare that we get to meet one," Kuhn said. "You honor us by being here. Your bravery will inspire many in this area. "
Kuhn said the judges' visit marked an exciting day.
"I know we are going to do great things for the good people here," Kuhn said. "We believe that more people will return when they hear that the court is back. This will bring more life back to this area."
Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, from Prince George's County, Md., commander of the brigade combat team, congratulated the judges on their decision and offered them his help in rebuilding their city.
"We all remember where this place was a year ago," he said. "We have worked hard to restore order and security here. Extremists cannot operate here now. It is now time for the Iraqi people stand up and bring rule of law back to Salman Pak. The people here will follow their leaders. I appreciate your leadership and taking this place to the next level."
(U.S. Army Spc. Ben Hutto is assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)