By Army Sgt. Jason Stadel
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 25, 2008 - After months of fighting, coalition forces in Arab Jabour, Iraq, have rid the area of al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists and have turned their attention to rebuilding the community. Those efforts have opened numerous schools, water pumps and health clinics in Arab Jabour. The Islah School, Alula School and Al-Alemia School are currently undergoing repairs.
Army Capt. James Anthony, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's Company C, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and his soldiers are overseeing the repair of the Al-Alemia School in the Bayija village. Anthony said the school was in disarray after al-Qaida in Iraq used it as a base of operations.
"The exterior walls were destroyed, and whole classrooms were demolished," Anthony said. "All of the electrical wiring had been removed, to include the generators powering the water filtration system."
An intelligence assessment determined that more than half of the area's al-Qaida in Iraq leadership lived near the school. The battalion conducted numerous combat operations in the area, resulting in many terrorists being killed, detained or fleeing. After the operations, most of the al-Qaida in Iraq leadership was gone, but they left behind dangerous traps for coalition forces and citizens in the form of improvised explosive devices.
"Multiple IEDs were found on the school grounds, as well as in several of the stairwells and classrooms," Anthony said. Company C removed the IEDs, and nine teachers and more than 35 students began classes within two days, he added.
Soldiers from the regiment's Company B saw a similar trend at the Alula School in the village of Abd al-Salman. Since al-Qaida in Iraq was forced out of the area in late 2007 and early this year, more than 800 children have returned to school.
When Anthony and his company saw residents' eagerness for their children to return to school, they made it a priority to repair and improve the school. Commander's Emergency Response Program funds were secured to finance the school's repairs, which serves as both an elementary and a primary school.
"When 1-30th Infantry invests its time and energy into the repair of infrastructure, ... we are investing in the future leadership of a peaceful Iraq," Anthony said.
To turn their attention to rebuilding schools, infantry, or armor soldiers and scouts must adjust their focus.
"It gives many of the soldiers a different look at the population," Anthony said, adding it was hard to believe that just months earlier the school was uninhabitable due to the IED threat.
Army Capt. Cesar Santiago, Company B executive officer, said improving education is one of the first steps in rebuilding Iraq.
"Education is one of the most vital tools to improve quality of life in this community, and that begins with providing the appropriate learning environment," he said.
Most of the repairs at the three schools include installing new windows and doors, fixing electrical wiring, installing new sinks and toilets and providing fresh water.
(Army Sgt. Jason Stadel serves with the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)