American Forces Press Service
Feb. 4, 2009 - In the quickly changing atmosphere of Iraq, U.S. troops increasingly are focused on preparing Iraqis to take control of their country. That change was evident in recent days when Air Force officers transferred a newly renovated military academy to the Iraqis and one Army unit turned over a building aimed to bolster the economy while another unit provided basic medical care. Leaders from Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's coalition air force training team returned to the Iraqis a completely refurbished, modern military academy that until recently was a rocket-torn, abandoned building.
Command leaders took the building over for renovations last year to accommodate the booming air force commissioning program at the Iraqi Military Academy at Rustamiyah. Established in 1924 under British mandate, Rustamiyah is a storied proving ground and critical linchpin in producing military officers. The years have provided little growth in facilities, while the numbers of young men volunteering to serve their nation have swelled.
"Less than a year ago, we were training 30 cadets," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Tom Fiordelisi, a training team leadership instructor at the academy. "Today, we're instructing more than 270 at a time."
The training teams worked with the coalition command to secure quick-reaction funds. More than $2 million was committed to revitalizing the campus.
In a first for engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the coalition training team, planners worked with former residents -- now lieutenants -- from each of the buildings and identified more than two dozen critical points requiring redesign. Later this month, cadets will return from every part of Iraq to a new academy campus, the sole training and commissioning source for Iraq's air force.
On Feb. 2, U.S. soldiers with the 10th Cavalry Regiment's 4th Squadron, attached to the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, transferred Joint Security Station Adl, which once was a four-story shopping center in northwestern Baghdad's Mansour district, to the Iraqi Trade Ministry.
The soldiers moved into the building last year. With much improved security since then, Iraqi and coalition forces agreed it was time to hand over the property.
"This location gave us the opportunity to work close with the Iraqi people and close with the Iraqi security forces," Army Lt. Col. Monty Willoughby, 4th Squadron commander, said. "We have seen a decrease in significant activity against the population in western Baghdad, and now it's time to give this facility back to its rightful owner, the Ministry of Trade."
With the security station in the Trade Ministry's control, jobs will be created if the shopping center is renovated and opened to the public, officials said.
"This will help the people. Many shoppers will gather here again: people from Baghdad and others who will visit Baghdad," Moufaq Manee al-Suhail, civil defense chief of the Adl market, said. "Plus, it will return over 300 employees, and we hope the government will do its best in refurbishing this building and return it back to its previous purpose, which is very important to the people."
With much of Iraq's security under control, U.S. troops also can devote more attention to humanitarian efforts. On Jan. 30, medics with the 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, 9th Cavalry Regiment, visited a small clinic near the squadron's headquarters in southeastern Iraq to provide routine exams and medical advice.
"Their help is very good for us," Amle Jaffer, an Iraqi nurse at the clinic, said. "We generally have only aspirin, water and basic medicines. Small clinics need lots of things that we don't always have."
The medical advice varied from explaining to parents why their children may have trouble sleeping to dealing with bacterial infections in the children's ears and mouths. The soldiers also provided shoes and clothes to as many Iraqi children as possible during the event.
"These people don't have a lot," said Army Capt. Julie Cyr, the 27th Brigade Support Battalion's medical planner, who assisted during the mission. "It was a heartfelt deed, because they need our help."
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases