FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq - The village of Chemin, Iraq, commemorated the opening of a new primary school with a ribbon cutting ceremony, Nov. 3.

Attending the ceremony was Deputy Director General of Education Fawzia Abdullah Awanis, representatives from Kirkuk's Provincial Reconstruction Team and Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Forward Operating Base Warrior.

According to Stacy Barrios, the Kirkuk PRT chief of Public Diplomacy, the project was a combined initiative between the Kirkuk PRT, the Director General of Education, and U.S. forces in Iraq, in an effort to improve the educational infrastructure and environment in Kirkuk province.

"The overall goal is to assist the Directorate of Education in fulfilling its goals in the province by helping to build its capacity to provide high quality education to all of the residents in Kirkuk province," Barrios explained.

Barrios said replacing the traditional mud-hut schools with safe, well-equipped school buildings is a high priority for the DG of Education, so the PRT and U.S. forces in the area have been engaged in advancing that effort.

"The Chemin Primary School is one of 43 projects sponsored by the U.S. in Iraq at the request of the DG of Education to replace the mud huts with new school buildings, and 28 of these projects have been completed so far," Barrios said.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Carl Lay, a Carrollton, Texas, native and the essential services liaison officer for 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div., the school was completed using funds from the Iraqi Commander's Emergency Relief Program, or ICERP, a program that utilizes Iraqi money to finance projects rather than U.S. money.

"Built at a cost of $120,000, the new school houses six classrooms with one teacher available in each class," said Sgt. 1st Class Lay. "Currently, the school has 66 students enrolled but has a maximum capacity of 90 students if needed."

Majid Mohammad Amen, the Chemin school English teacher, whose son also attends the school, was enthusiastic about the new building.

"It's a safer place now, so the children can focus on their studies instead of the building, I am thankful to the U.S. for the new school," Majid said. "The old school had old blackboards and chalk, which were difficult to write on because of their age, but the new school has whiteboards which are healthier because they don't produce the chalk dust."

Aside from the new whiteboards, the school also has new desks for every student.

And Majid wasn't the only teacher at the school excited about the new learning environment. Aryan, who is the school's science teacher, was thankful as well and couldn't wait to begin teaching.

During the opening of the school, the children were also treated to new school supplies and hygiene kits provided by Soldiers from U.S. Army Civil Affairs.

"We purchased the supplies from local vendors, which contain backpacks, pencils, shirts and ties, lunchboxes, and thermoses," said 1st Lt. Samil Reyes, a Fayetteville, N.C., native and civil affairs team leader with the 414th Civil Affairs Company. "We also provided hygiene kits with toothbrushes, combs and other health products."