By Army Spc. David Hodge
Special to American Forces Press Service
Iraq, July 7, 2008 - Leaders from Multinational Division Baghdad, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government broke ground July 5 for a project to revitalize the road from Baghdad International Airport to the heart of the Iraqi capital. "It was a great day for all of Iraq," Army Col. Ted Martin, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, said. "I am proud to say that I stand beside my Iraqi brothers on this great day."
When people fly into the airport and come to visit Baghdad, they will drive down Airport Road and see the best Iraq has to offer, added Martin, who hails from Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
"Airport Road is the new beginning for southern Baghdad," Martin explained.
Iraqi leaders used the event to celebrate the project and to thank Multinational Division Baghdad for its help with security in the Iraqi capital.
"Progress starts from here," said Moayad Hamed, the lead contractor for the area in which the ceremony was held. "This is a positive step forward in the building of Iraq. I hope the government understands the hard work of coalition forces and moves only forward from here."
Hamed, who was in charge of the groundwork for the ceremony, said the many hours of labor paid off.
"I created a nice setting for the ceremony -- it only took four days, with many workers out here 24 hours each day," Hamed said. "I hope it showed the people in attendance how nice Iraq could look with enough effort and security."
One of the adornments, a decorative-art sailboat, displayed both the Iraqi flag and 4th Infantry Division patch.
"The ship represents the country of Iraq, and the sail represents [coalition forces]," Hamed explained. "The sail helps the boat move forward."
Othman al-Haythm Karim, who contributed a prayer from the Quran at the ceremony, said he enjoyed his opportunity to be a part of Iraq's history.
"I was excited to read from the Quran at the ceremony, because the book comes from God," he said. "This construction project marks a good day for Iraq."
Baghdad Mayor Saber al-Esawi spoke about the importance of Airport Road and how the Iraqi security forces play a vital part in allowing events like this to take place.
"The [Iraqi forces] played a huge role in chasing out the terrorists," Esawi said. "They lost many soldiers in the process. The residents took notice and know that without that support, they would have no projects."
Over the past two months, the security situation has changed for the better, Martin said, as many criminal cells and militia leaders have left the area.
"Due to the security of the Rashid district, we are now able to shift our efforts from full-spectrum combat operations toward helping rebuild and make life better for the people of Baghdad," Martin said. "That is victory, my friends!"
Reconstruction projects similar to the Airport Road revitalization will continue at many locations in the Rashid district, Martin said, adding that the people have decided that Iraq has no future with terrorists and criminals.
(Army Spc. David Hodge serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)