Military officials, Muslims renovate mosque at Taji
January 30, 2010
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Two officials with the 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) began supervising the renovations of the mosque Jan. 1 at Camp Taji, Iraq.
In 2009, Multi-National Force - Iraq put out an order to repair any mosque on an American base to make it usable for the Iraqis when American forces turn the bases over, said Maj. Terry Partin, a religious customs adviser for the project and brigade chaplain with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 155th HBCT, 13th ESC.
The project totaled roughly $17,000, he said. In addition to the structural repairs, the electrical wiring was redone and the building put on the primary power grid, said Lt. Col. Paul McDonald, brigade engineer with the 155th HBCT.
Reliability Management Solutions, which has the maintenance contract at Camp Taji, was assigned to renovate the mosque, said McDonald, a Jackson, Miss., native.
The mosque renovation would provide a safe religious structure for the Islamic Soldiers in the Iraqi Army, said McDonald.
"The structure would be restored for their use when (U.S. forces) turn over the base in the near future," said McDonald.
Due to religious and cultural sensitivities, the project was not just a simple home improvement operation, said McDonald.
To help ensure respect for Islam, Partin requested that predominantly Islamic contractors repair the mosque, said Partin, a Richton, Miss., native. Cultural awareness and religious customs were a priority, said Partin.
Partin and McDonald were allowed special permission to enter, observe and make assessments of the mosque on the U.S. Army monitored half of Camp Taji.
"The biggest part of doing it right, is when we have it ready for turnover, it is done to their cultural and religious standards," said McDonald. "We went through several iterations of plans to make sure we were doing everything properly."
Partin said there was no major damage inside, but lack of maintenance allowed water to damage the interior.
The goal of the renovation was to keep it safe from any further damage and to make it operational, he said.
"The mosque here has not been vandalized," said Partin. "It had taken a rocket or mortar round that had hit the roof and it caused some damage to the parapet, which is the wall around the top."
Cultural affairs liaisons, who were civilian contractors with the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, gave advice about what was needed to make the mosque meet religious standards, said Partin.
"He made sure we didn't do anything that might be offensive to (Muslims)," said Partin.
There were no major complications or delays on the renovation process, said McDonald. The process is well within the planned time frame, he said.
McDonald said the renovation is scheduled to be finished in the first week of February.
"Much of the building was in good condition," said McDonald. "While its structure is not complex, it is a matter of treating their culture and religion with respect and establishing a safe and functioning facility for them."