FORWARD OPERATING BASE BRASSFIELD-MORA, SAMARRA, Iraq - Coalition forces joined Samarra's director general of water in flipping the switch on a new water treatment facility in the Al Tuth neighborhood of Samarra, March 30.
Capt. Benjamin Boekestein, a Traverse City, Michigan native and commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, attended a ribbon cutting ceremony in the company of Samarra's director general of water, Ahmed Ali, Sons of Iraq leaders, Lt. Col. Sam Whitehurst, commander, 2-35, 3rdIBCT, and local Iraqi policemen.
As the official party stood by the water pump, Ali shouted to a young man who cranked up a generator. Moments later, Ali and Whitehurst flipped the pump's switch together. Following a brief cacophony of generator noise, clean water began to spout from a hose.
"We are overjoyed," said Omar Elbaz, a local farmer and father of three children. "There is no better news for my family today."
Elbaz and others in the Al Tuth neighborhood draw their drinking water directly from the Tigris River. Inadequate filtration and purification systems have resulted in high levels of parasites and other contamination in the water, leading to continued illnesses in the area.
Whitehurst addressed the crowd and spoke of recent progress across the city. "I have been a Soldier for twenty years," he said, "and this is a very exciting day for me. I would much rather spend my time attending ceremonies like this one here today than fire my weapon. I can see in the faces of my Soldiers they feel the same way."
In addition to providing potable water to local residents, operation and maintenance of the modest treatment facility provides part time employment for a small number of workers.
Boekestein has lobbied aggressively with provincial leaders to continue to provide funding for ongoing essential services projects in the impoverished region.

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