Soldier's death motivates completion of water project
March 8, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq - On the fateful day of Dec. 30, 2008, during a mission to coordinate the distribution of purified drinking water from the Salah ad-Din Department of Water to the Salah ad-Din Hospital in Tikrit, Pfc. Christopher Lotter, Task Force Steel, 25th Infantry Division, was killed by sniper fire.
A pumping station for the hospital draws water from the Tigris River, treats it with chlorine, and then pumps it to the hospital. During an inspection, it was discovered that the station had a faulty chlorine dispensing valve. A few weeks after Lotter was killed, the station received and installed the part.
Motivated by Lotter's death, Task Force Steel returned to Qadisiyah, a suburb of Tikrit, Feb. 12 to inspect water plants in the city and to confirm the two newly-installed chlorine tanks had been successfully purifying the water used at the hospital.
"Seeing today's mission completed means a lot to our patrol, our battery and our battalion, and is also beneficial for the people of Qadisiyah," said Sgt. 1st Class Ismael Gonzalez, a platoon sergeant in Battery A, TF Steel. "Lotter was a member of my patrol and he died doing his job, to help the people of Iraq."
The plan to ensure that Qadisiyah water pumping station provides the hospital with clean, purified water has been an ongoing effort since TF Steel arrived in country.
"The 30th of December was the day we decided to help spur the process forward by going to the Director of Water ourselves, to receive the validation for the tanks to begin the purification of the local water source," said Gonzalez.
During the memorial service for Lotter, Capt. Jeffrey Rhodes, his company commander, pledged the unit would complete the mission of providing clean water for the hospital.
"The fact that our patrol members didn't hesitate in taking the mission today, the same kind of mission that Lotter was killed on, showed that we really honor his sacrifice, and as a tribute, completed it in his memory," said Sgt. Christopher Servin, another member of the platoon.
The Qadisiyah Hospital has been open for many years and has been under re-construction for the past 14 months. The hospital provides immediate emergency care for the local populace of Qadisiyah. The three chlorine tanks at the hospital purify about 15,000 liters of water per hour, regulated by an operator at the water pumping station.
"My job is to make sure that the chlorine needed to purify the water in this region is continually being applied in these tanks for the people's use," said Hatthim Facel Selmon, chlorine valve operator, Qadisiyah water pump. "Our chlorine tanks are now purifying to provide the clean water that will improve the quality of life for our people."
"I believe this to be a perfect example of what our role is here in Iraq - to ensure the democratically elected government is working together and communicating within its own channels to make Iraq a better place for its people," said Navy Lt. Jonathan Gandy, civil affairs team leader with the 490th Civil Affairs Bn., attached to TF Steel.