By Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 27, 2009 - A project that began last year came to fruition here Oct. 12, when this small Iraqi village celebrated the official opening of a newly renovated school. Dammadi Radi, director general of education for Iraq's Babil province attended the ceremony, along with local sheiks, the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team and a crowd of supporters.
The renovation project began in 2008 with Company B, 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion. The 1411th Civil Affairs Company took over the project and worked with 3rd Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, to finish the renovations and coordinate the ceremony.
"This project has been something we've been working on since March," said platoon leader Army 1st Lt. Joseph W. McCarthy. "Projects like these are the basis of change for Iraq, and I'm proud of my soldiers on the ground who are helping to shape the future of Iraq."
About 950 students attend the school in two shifts. The first shift is primary school for 700 students in Grades 1 through 6. The second shift is secondary school, with 250 students in Grades 7 through 9 attending classes.
The ceremony began with Radi and McCarthy cutting a ribbon held by two students. Speeches in both Arabic and English welcomed guests and thanked attendees for their continued support and efforts to improve the school.
"We are all brothers, and we all help one another," Radi said. "We will never forget what the Americans have done to help bring success to the future of our children."
Village sheiks helped Radi, McCarthy and others in passing out backpacks, soccer jerseys and soccer balls donated by the U.S. Army.
"The overall mission today was a huge success," said Army Staff Sgt. Magaly Santillan, civil affairs team sergeant with the 1411th Civil Affairs Company. "Our goal today was to officially open the school as well as establish credibility and good working relations with the local populous here."
(Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little serves with the 172nd Infantry Brigade.)