American Forces Press Service
July 1, 2009 - U.S. forces in Iraq helped to bolster Iraqi sovereignty in recent days with the opening of a new health care center and the return of two combat outposts to Iraqi control. A new center is bringing access to health care closer for the 30,000 residents of the Humer Kwer area of Sulaimaniyah province.
Ousman Younes, minister of health for the Kurdistan Regional Government, presided over a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Ruzh Hallat Primary Health Care Center.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division managed the $540,000 construction project. The U.S. Economic Support Fund provided money for the project, and Gulf Region North's Sulaimaniyah office was the on-site construction manager.
"Most of the Humer Kwer residents currently have to travel an indirect route of approximately seven kilometers to access the nearest existing primary health care center," said Lucy Tamlyn, team leader of the U.S. Regional Reconstruction Team Kurdistan Region. "This project is a great example of the partnership between the United States and the Kurdish region. We look forward to continuing that partnership."
Army Col. Margaret Burcham, commander of the Gulf Region's North District, praised the project team for working hard to deliver the health care center.
"The Corps of Engineers is very pleased to coordinate a partnership to provide such a high-quality medical clinic that will last for many years," she said. "This is real value for the money, ... a stunning facility."
Amenities at the new health center include three doctors' offices, two patient rooms, an X-ray room, laboratory, administrative offices and a pharmacy.
The United States has allocated more than $40 million for the health sector in Iraq's Kurdish region, of which $10 million is earmarked for the Sulaimaniyah province.
Elsewhere, the Service Battery of 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 172nd Brigade Combat Team, handed over control of Combat Outpost Summers, near Suwayrah, to the 32nd Iraqi Army Brigade on June 29.
Summers was the fifth and final security station in Wasit province to be returned to Iraqi control under the U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which called for all U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by yesterday.
"Tomorrow you should be standing very tall," Army Col. Dick Francey, 41st Fires Brigade commander and commander of U.S. troops in Wasit province, told Iraqi soldiers at the ceremony.
"Iraqi security forces are capable of protecting their people," he said. "We stand by you as friends and realize you are in the lead."
In compliance with the agreement, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, soldiers moved to Forward Operating Base Delta after the ceremony. The battalion will take authority of the base and U.S. troops in Wasit when the 41st Fires Brigade redeploys to Fort Hood, Texas, in early August.
The Service Battery soldiers had lived and worked with their Iraqi partners on Summers since January.
In Basra, elements of the 21st Military Police Company and 178th Military Police Company, attached to the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, withdrew all supplies and personnel and returned control of Combat Outpost Perry and the Old State Building to the Iraqi army June 28.
"This is a symbolic moment for the people of Iraq. It's exciting to watch the Iraqi army step up and protect their people," said Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Poisson, platoon leader for the 178th Military Police Company.
Army Col. Butch Kievenaar, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said two other locations will continue to have a U.S. presence to coordinate, train and advise Iraqi security forces at the request of provincial leaders.
(From U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division and Multinational Division South news releases. Army Sgt. Allison Churchill of the 41st Fires Brigade and Army Staff Sgt. Carlos M. Burger II of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team contributed to this report.)