Cav troops join Iraqis for Baghdad Island ground breaking ceremony
June 30, 2009
BAGHDAD - Soldiers from the 1st "Black Knights" Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, joined with representatives from the Government of Iraq (GoI) to hold a ground breaking ceremony for Baghdad Island, a nearly 150-acre recreational facility here, June 22.
"This ceremony marks not only a continuation of support, but also a significant milestone," said Sioux Falls, S.D. native Col. Tobin Green, "Ironhorse" Brigade commander. "The work that is beginning today is not a coalition effort, but a joint effort between the coalition and the Iraqi Government, a true partnership."
As combat troops pull out of the cities, Coalition forces are beginning to focus on reconstruction; the GoI has security under control, said Capt. William Murphy, the civil affairs (CA) team leader for the "Black Knights".
"Over the past 30 years, Baghdad Island has been many things to people," said San Antonio native Capt. Brent Kinney, commander for Company E, "Black Knights" Battalion.
Before insurgents looted the facility, Baghdad Island was everyone's recreation destination, said Murphy, a native of Waltham, Mass.
Baghdad Island was often used for weddings, parties, community celebrations, arts and cultural events, or to just get out of the city. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in conjunction with the "Black Knights" Battalion have a renewed interest in revitalizing Baghdad Island.
Baghdad Island was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1958 and built by two Finnish companies from 1980 to 1982. It is bordered by the Tigris River and man-made lakes. The recreational facility contained restaurants, an amphitheatre, a bowling alley, a five-star hotel, an outdoor cinema and a 50-meter high observation tower.
Renovating the surrounding buildings will help regain their previous allure and the lakes will be renewed to their full potential, said Kinney.
"Children then, now adults, may look back and remember coming here with their families and looking out across their proud city. Young couples, now becoming tired with age, may remember this is where they were bound by marriage. Even members of the Coalition forces may remember living here, when it was used as a military installation," Kinney added.
In order to reach these goals a new pumping system, electrical repair and removal of brush will be required. The GoI promises three dinar for every dinar the coalition spends. The official beginning of the renovation began with Dr. Qahtan Abbas Al-Jabburi, the minister of tourism and antiquities, and South Bend, Ind. native Lt. Col. Scott Jackson, Black Knights" commander, cutting the chains to the observation tower.
The re-opening of Baghdad Island is creating hope for the re-establishment of normalcy for the people of Baghdad, said Murphy.