By Army Sgt. Ian Terry
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 25, 2009 - Scores of Samarra civilians joined provincial and community leaders March 23 at a concrete barrier removal ceremony reminiscent of the tearing down of Germany's Berlin Wall nearly 20 years ago. The concrete barriers, commonly known as "T-walls," surround several government and military buildings throughout Samarra to provide a layer of protection against insurgent attacks. While T-walls are a familiar site in Iraq, they are a sign of more dangerous times, and most Samarra residents agree it's time for them to go.
Samarra Mayor Mahmood Khalaf Ahmed joined Army Lt. Col. Sam
Whitehurst, commander of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Samarra residents to witness the first step in a citywide barrier removal project.
The site selected for the initial barrier removal is in a
section of Samarra that was once used for public executions in darker days. Today, it is a peaceful marketplace.
"Samarra has become very peaceful," Omar Khaled, a local produce shop owner, said. "The barriers remind us of bad times, but it is time to look toward the future and enjoy our peace. It is time to reopen Samarra."
Ten individual barriers were lifted, removed and placed on a flatbed truck. Both Ahmed and Whitehurst spoke with Iraqi media, echoing Khaled's sentiment.
"The people of Samarra have a sense of security now," Ahmed said, "a security they have not known in many years."
"Many exciting events have transpired in Samarra over our last five months here," Whitehurst said. "Today is, without a doubt, the most exciting of those events.
"The progress and security that has come to Samarra is a direct result of the cooperation and partnership of the Samarran people," he continued. "None of this would be possible without your help."
The removed barriers will be given to the Iraqi army and used for security around military compounds.
(Army Sgt. Ian Terry serves with the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)