By Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti, 1st BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div., MND-BJuly 1, 2009
BAGHDAD - Mirroring the adopt-a-school program in the United States with local schools, the 1st "Black Knight" Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, attached to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division initiated a partnership program with four schools in their area.
The four companies of the "Black Knight" battalion partnered up with a local Iraqi Security Forces unit jointly selected a school and began a dialogue with the school head minister or headmistress. After identifying a school in need of assistance, the "Black Knight" Soldiers and their ISF partner, processed a contract to renovate the building to improve the facility.
The first such school to be completed is the Al Areej Kindergarten in Adhamiyah.
"From the time we started the process, this school took a little under 60 days to fully renovate," stated Waltham, Mass. native Capt. William Murphy, the civil affairs team leader.
The Civil Affairs Team attached to the "Black Knights" visited the kindergarten, assessed the conditions, developed a scope of work and began the contractor-bid process.
"The project renovated the floors, the latrines, repainted the entire school, and removed all the debris from the playground that surrounds the school," Murphy said.
During this project, the ISF continued visits to the school to check on progress and interact with the children. By being involved in the renovation process, the children were able to interact with the ISF unit that secures their area and build a relationship with them.
"The renovation of the school is to provide the children a safe school that will promote education while giving the children access to the ISF," Murphy shared.
The renovation is funded by the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), which is a decentralized fund for commanders to use in providing humanitarian and reconstruction services in order to assist Iraq's return to normalcy.
Under CERP, schools are rebuilt, medical facilities, water and sewer facilities are constructed and social programs implemented. The funding is an easily accessible source of funds that produces great benefits, stated Murphy.
"Many of our projects are aimed at providing the local populace with a long lasting effect-not just a band-aid, but a repair of the overall system and structure," Murphy said.