No radioactivity at Sha'ab school
December 16, 2009
TAJI, Iraq -The Iraqi Government and American Soldiers confirmed there is no radioactivity at the Aden School for Girls in Sha'ab, north of Baghdad, during a visit, Dec. 13.
"We are here to assist the Iraqi's [Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team] in ending rumors about radioactivity in the vicinity of the school," said Col. Maria Zumwalt, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion commander, from Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
During an earlier District Council meeting, American commanders learned of possible radioactivity fears in the school.
Iraqi doctors had diagnosed several teachers with different cancers within a small time frame. Some locals thought it came from radioactivity in the area. Once parents heard these rumors, many transferred their children to surrounding schools in the area, said Iraqi Lt. Khalid, an 11th Iraqi Army Division EOD team leader.
"We asked the U.S. forces to assist us in this because the students' parents don't trust our equipment," explains Khalid. "If they [U.S. Forces] confirm our reading is accurate, parents will feel more comfortable with their children in this school."
Zumwalt, a trained chemical officer, immediately offered to investigate the situation and assist the Iraqi Security Forces to prove the school is safe.
"The Ministry of Environment tested the area before we arrived," explained Zumwalt. "Then to ease the worries of parents, they asked us to validate a negative reading with our own equipment."
This job is a combined effort between the Iraqi EOD and U.S. Forces, Zumwalt explained. After the Iraqi EOD searched the area, the U.S. Soldiers searched the school with their own radioactivity reading meters.
Taking all claims of radioactivity seriously, the Americans sent specialized Soldiers to the school to assist and confirm the Iraqi results. Soldiers searching the building took all necessary precautions by dressing in bright, green protective uniforms with blue mouth covers to shield themselves from any possible radioactivity found.
Zumwalt discussed the situation with prominent figures of the school and community as Iraqi EOD investigated the school.
Once EOD exited the building, U.S. Soldiers entered the school with their radioactivity reading meters and checked the area. Thoroughly searching the entire school, they finished with a negative reading of radioactivity.
After both the Iraqi EOD and U.S. Soldiers completed their tests, Zumwalt announced to the Iraqi media present, "there is no radioactivity in the area," she continued. "It is safe, clear and there is nothing to worry about."