By Raymond McNulty
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 5, 2008 - When bells ring for a return to schools throughout Baghdad's Sadr City district later this month, students at schools renovated by Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers are in for a big surprise. Following the end of hostilities in Baghdad's most densely populated district, nearly all of the 38 schools in Task Force Gold's operational environment were selected for repair and refurbishment by the 926th Engineer Brigade.
"The youth of Sadr City represent the future," Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, the brigade commander, said. "They are the next chapter in the story of hope for a new Baghdad and Iraq."
The intent of the project is to create safe, secure environments conducive to learning, Talley said.
The schools chosen for renovation were affected by illegal militia cells throughout the conflict with coalition forces and the Iraqi Army for control of the district, Talley said. The Multinational Division Baghdad command group and the district and neighborhood advisory councils recommended the projects.
Academic repair and reconstruction projects typically concentrate on interior and exterior walls, doors and window trim, as well as the repair of floor and ceiling tiles, plumbing and electrical systems. Other critical upgrades include perimeter wall repair, grounds clearing, landscaping, and back-up power generation, officials said.
The Task Force Gold Sadr City Academic Reconstruction Program was accelerated for completion before the beginning of the academic year for primary and secondary schools. It is valued at $10.2 million, about 20 percent of the total allocation for Sadr City assistance and reconstruction, Talley said. The congressionally funded Commander's Emergency Response Program paid for most of the projects.
By this week, Task Force Gold had scoped, budgeted, funded, contracted and supervised work at 30 schools, said Army Col. Jared Olsen, commander of Task Force Gold and the deputy commanding officer for the 926th Engineer Brigade. Work on eight additional schools is in progress. All school repair and renovation work is done by local Sadr City contractors, which provides a significant boost to the district's economy, Olsen said.
(Raymond McNulty serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 926th Engineer Brigade Public Affairs Office.)