COB BASRA, Iraq - The COB Basra community rallied together to help victims of a blaze that destroyed an entire building used to house service members, Department of Defense civilians, and contractors.

While no one was seriously injured, the building was burned to the ground along with all the occupants' belongings.

Maj. Michael Cobb, the executive officer for the 1st Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion said units and organizations post-wide contributed gifts from care packages, excess equipment from supply rooms, and even money to help those who lost property in the fire.

"It doesn't matter what unit you're in, if you're a civilian or you're a contractor or you're a Soldier, when something happens like that everyone pulls together and you're one team," the Killeen, Texas, native said.

The 15 displaced members of the COB Basra team received assistance at the DHHB headquarters and were able to begin the process for receiving reimbursement for destroyed belongings.

From there, the COB Basra United Service Organizations center manager, Valerie Burnham of Sarasota, Fla., took the Soldiers and civilians to the post exchange where she used USO funds to purchase any remaining items they might need until additional equipment could be re-issued.

"I'm hoping that by me taking care of that little nuisance for them then it will take that little burden off," she said.

Burnham, a 24-year veteran who retired from the U.S. Navy last year, said her own service ingrained in her a sense of responsibility to help others.

"You see people in trouble, you want to do something about it," she said. "It's my human nature now, after being in the military for so long."

While DHHB and the USO were able to replace smaller items, Soldiers and DoD employees will be able to file a claim for high-value items lost in the fire.

Capt. Aleksander Podolskiy, the 1st Inf. Div. legal assistance attorney, said eligible personnel have 730 days to file their claim on While the site is automated, the legal assistance office on COB Basra is assisting people with filing their claims.

Podolskiy said while contractors cannot file a claim through Army channels, they can contact their employer to try to arrange reimbursement for lost items.

A Soldier can also keep a high-value items sheet at their company, outlining any belongings in their room worth 50 dollars or more, which can help expedite the claims process.

Some of the building's occupants were not on the base at the time of the fire because of leave and missions at other bases in Iraq, but Cobb, Podolskiy and Burnham said the displaced personnel will be assisted in whatever way possible when they return to Basra.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16