CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - The security detachment compound was bustling. Soldiers walked back and forth, engaged in conversations and smiling. Their mission was a little different from their normal security patrols.

Even the cargo for this mission was different. Soccer balls, toys and clothes were loaded into their heavily-armored Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. The construction of the Al Haneen primary school was recently completed and the Soldiers were on a mission to give back to the local Iraqi community.

"The school is the biggest thing in Albu Hamaad," said Capt. David Bright, commander for the Division Special Troops Battalion Personal Security Detachment, 3rd Infantry Division, and the patrol leader. "There are only seven or eight other structures in the town."

As Soldiers from the 3rd ID rolled into the small village, it looked like the ceremony was for them. A crowd of more than 60 people was in the school's courtyard, including 28 school-aged children, who lined up against one of the school's walls and patiently waited for the ceremony to start.

As the Iraqi flag was raised, seven Iraqi children lined up in the center of the courtyard near the flagpole, while Mohammad Fahad, an eighth grader, saluted. Fahad held his salute as the 3rd Infantry Division Band played the Iraqi national anthem. Fahad said he likes his new school.
"It's a new school, and it's a big school," he said.

The primary school will provide education for children up to the age of 14, and will serve the village of Albu Hamaad and two other surrounding villages.

According to Capt. Bright, approximately 200 children will attend the school and some students will walk as far as six kilometers from nearby villages.

The Village Sheik, Dawood Salman Rabia is happy the school was built and believes it will benefit the lives of the local children.

"It's a very good project for the village and especially for the children," said Sheik Rabia. "Thank you, everyone, for building this school."

According to Capt. Calvin Fisher, officer in charge of the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone, which contracted the project, construction began in November and was finished in June.

"The project started because the village needed an adequate school," he said. "The previous building was never designed to be a school. It lacked adequate classrooms and was a health and safety concern."

Additionally, Capt. Fisher said, "The new school has increased from two classrooms to six with larger classroom space, larger restroom accommodations and office and lounge space for the administrators and teachers."

Captain Bright has patrolled this small community for the last eight months.

"Because of projects like this, we have a good relationship with the community," he said
And, soon, that relationship will grow even stronger. The Commander's Emergency Response Program has planned to provide clean drinking water for the local community.

"The water distillation unit will provide clean drinking water for the school, the village and the surrounding area," said Capt. Fisher, who expects the project to start as early as next month.

But, for now, the local citizens are happy to celebrate the opening of their new school. After the formal ceremony, the 3ID band continued to play and members of the community gathered around tables to eat. They then toured the new school.

For this small village community and especially the students, the Al Haneen primary school provides hope for the future.

Raghda Zari, a third grader says she will be attending school here, and she hopes to one day be a teacher.