Ramadi students thank reconstruction team, brigade, for new classrooms
November 9, 2009
RAMADI, Iraq (Army News Service, Nov. 9, 2009) -- There is a crisp breeze on this overcast day, a reminder that, even in Iraq, fall is approaching. For U.S. forces here, that means a lot of things, but for the children of Ramadi, it means school is back in session.
Students of Al Andalous Primary School gathered Oct. 28, in the school courtyard, to thank members of an American Provincial Reconstruction Team for renovating their school. For the members of 2nd Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade), it was an opportunity to see the difference PRTs are making in the community.
The platoon's role was to escort Laura Wilkinson, Natalie Zia and Erol Yayboke, members of the PRT, to the school in downtown Ramadi.
The elementary school recently conducted renovations as a partnered project with the PRT and the local Coalition Humanitarian Fund representatives. The State Department will typically fund 50 percent of the PRT projects, with the other half coming from the local economy. The PRT spent $32,500 for the renovation of two classrooms, now bathed in a welcoming shade of pink.
"You can really see the quality of the work on this project. It may have cost thousands, but it looks like a million bucks," said Capt. Donald Dangler, the company commander.
"It's times like these that you can sense the importance of what we are doing here in Iraq," he said.
Members of the security detachment were amazed at how similarly this school in a poor Ramadi neighborhood reminded them of elementary schools in their hometowns, he said.
PRT members were brimming with pride as school administrators showed them the depth of the renovations.
In those 12 minutes, all of the PRT's hard work and the efforts of Company D providing security and escort were validated, said Dangler.
Several children were called upon to recite poetry and give a thank you note to the PRT. It was a touching ceremony, one that embodied the partnership between the Iraqi people, the U.S. Army, and the many organizations working for change in Iraq.
Before the Americans departed, the PRT met with school officials for a brief meeting on future projects, setting the stage for continued development.
"Working with the PRT is like nothing I've ever done in the Army," said 2nd Lt. Tom Dyer, the company's civil-military operations representative. "You really get to see how the community looks at [U.S. forces] on missions like these."
Dyer, who will accompany the PRT on all their missions with Company D, was really surprised by the level of professionalism of the PRT.
"I expected them to be articulate, knowledgeable and experienced; but they were just at a whole other level," he said.
As the convoy left the school, the paratroopers could not help but feel a sense of hope for the people of Iraq, said Dangler.
(1st Lt. Michael Mueller writes for the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist Brigade))