FORWARD OPERATING BASE BRASSFIELD-MORA, Samarra, Iraq - Scores of Samarra citizens joined provincial and community leaders March 23 to attend a concrete barrier removal ceremony reminiscent of the opening of the Berlin wall nearly twenty 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 have become a familiar site in Iraq, they are a sign of more dangerous times, and most citizens agree it's time for them to go.
Samarra's mayor, Mahmood Khalaf Ahmed, joined Lt. Col. Sam Whitehurst, commander, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, and citizens from all over the city of Samarra to witness the first step in a city-wide barrier removal project.
"Samarra has become very peaceful," said Omar Khaled, a local produce shop owner. "The barriers remind us of bad times," Khaled continued, "but it is time to look toward the future and enjoy our peace. It is time to reopen Samarra."
To the sound of cheering and clapping, a young Iraqi man dressed in sweatpants and sandals strapped hooked chains onto the lifting points of the barriers. Ten individual barriers were lifted, removed and placed on a flat-bed truck.
Both Ahmed and Whitehurst spoke with Iraqi media, echoing Khaled's sentiment. "The people of Samarra have a sense of security now," said Ahmed, "a security they have not known in many years."
"Many exciting events have transpired in Samarra over our last five months here," said Whitehurst. "Today is, without a doubt, the most exciting of those events." Whitehurst concluded by saying "the progress and security that has come to Samarra is a direct result of the cooperation and partnership of the Samarran people. None of this would be possible without your help."
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.
The removed barriers will be given to the Iraqi Army and used for security around military compounds.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16