"Dragons" assess Twin Schools project
September 16, 2009
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The troopers of 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division understand that rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq is mission number one.
In order to improve the quality of education in their area, the "Dragons" Soldiers regularly check on the progress of their public works projects to ensure all deadlines and standards are met. Providing ample education to the children of Iraq has become an objective of great importance for U.S. forces and the Government of Iraq.
"If we could educate the children now, the future of Iraq can be solidified," explained Whitewater, Wis., native, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Lien, the battalion's civil capacity and essential services officer. "With their education they can provide opportunities to create an independent future for Iraq."
Lien's mission is to evaluate the construction progress of two schools. It is estimated that the two schools will educate over twelve-hundred students north of Baghdad.
As Lien walked the halls of the first school, his disappointment was evident. The two schools are already a year behind schedule; one reason why Lien was assigned to oversee the progress. In the week since his last visit, little work has been completed and the construction superintendent was not at the construction site.
"I told him to sweep these halls and make sure that the electricity is working," explained Lien as he walked through rubble-filled rooms at the first school. "At this point I am not happy about what I've seen. I can only hope that the second school is better."
As Lien proceeded to the next school, which was only a few hundred yards away, he clutched a checklist of building requirements outlined by the Government of Iraq's Ministry of Education. If the building meets all of the requirements on the list, the MoE will provide teachers, essential furniture, and supplies to make the school operational. Minutes after Lien arrived at the second school it became obvious that he was in better spirits.
"We got water!" shouted Lien as he and his counterpart, Cambridge, Mass., native Staff Sgt. Carlos Madden, a civil affairs team leader, tested an outdoor water faucet at the school.
"They got the water working, hopefully the electricity is working inside as well," added Lien as he enters the school's hallway.
When they walked into the second school it was obvious that Lien and his team had made progress in this project. Spotless-tiled hallways led to classrooms that were covered in fresh paint, while lighting fixtures and power outlets were emplaced and actually worked.
"I must say that I am impressed with this school at this point," said Lien. "If both of these schools had to open today, I can honestly say they could. Although the first school would be a scramble to clean up, it could be opened to educate the kids."
Lien and his team are happy to deal with the overwhelming number of hours they've invested in this project; provided the final product meets the standards of the battalion and the MoE.
"A lot of the time when we visit our projects we have to ride the contractors to do it to our standard," said Madden. "Once our projects are complete and we can offer the people the essential services though, it's all worth our frustration."
The contractors have assured Lien and his team that the Twin Schools project will be complete by the end of September. Lien and the "Dragons" will continue to monitor progress in order to ensure the children of the surrounding area of the small village north of Baghdad have the opportunity to receive education they deserve.