FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq- Dozens of young girls from the Bnaslawa district of Erbil, Iraq, gathered to celebrate the opening of a new all-female school in their neighborhood, Sept. 29.
The school is made up of 24 classrooms, and has modern amenities including a science lab, computer lab, auditorium, basketball court and a soccer field.
The school's construction was originally initiated by the Republic of Korea Army in June 2007, which redeployed back to Korea in December 2008. Several U.S. Army civil affairs teams supervised the project from then until its opening.
"There was a lot of overcrowding in this area," said Lt. Col. Timothy Quinlan, who helped oversee the project from June 2008 to April 2009 while serving in Erbil with the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade.
""This is a growing community and the governor wanted to put schools in the poor neighborhoods that needed them most," Quinlan said.
Opening a school of this size and quality in a downtrodden neighborhood like Bnaslawa demonstrates to the people that the government really cares, according to Quinlan.
"This school will serve 1,600 females," said Quinlan. "The schools they [females] had before were the most in need of repairs."
Overcrowding had gotten so bad that the government had to contract private homes in the community to use as schools, according to Quinlan.
"Day by day, the population of Erbil grows," said the mayor of Erbil, Hussein Katari. "We needed more schools."
This school shows the infrastructure in the city is growing to match the population.
"This (school opening) is going to ease a lot of tension here," Katari said.
For the young girls who will be attending school here, the new school is more than just a place to learn.
"The building is very beautiful and new," said Zahra Azadin, 14, who will be attending ninth grade at the school. "If a school is small, we can still study, but here, we have more opportunity of moving forward. We can go from here to better things."
During the opening ceremonies, the school was signed over to the governor of Erbil, Nawzad Hadi, by the U.S. Army, which funded the project. The traditional ribbon cutting ceremony then signified the first official day of Bnaslawa School.
"I'm very excited to be here," said Zahra.