By Spc. Sharla Lewis, 3rd AAB PAO, 1st Cav. Div. June 14, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - Infrastructure development in Iraq has been an ongoing process since the development of the provincial reconstruction team in 2002.
The economic projects began with quick-fixes like food, medical assistance and school supplies.
Later, they moved to months-long contracts fulfilled by the government of Iraq like trash clean-up, roadway reconstruction and small business development initiatives.
The projects have finally graduated to the development of sustainable systems with minimal U.S. involvement like a weekly trash pickup program and brought the country from the ravages of war to the sunrise of economic success.
One part of this evolution is incorporating Iraq’s art, music and theatrical culture into these economic projects.
The Muthanna provincial government, the Muthanna Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), and partners in Task Force 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division saw the grand opening of Friendship Hall in Samawah, Iraq, on May 28.
Friendship Hall is a 414-seat multipurpose civic center that will host cultural, artistic, educational, and other civil society events. Ground was broken for the project in October 2010. The inauguration coincided with the closure of the PRT, and showcased local artists, musicians, and others who have benefited from PRT-sponsored programs.
At the grand opening, people filed into the facility's main auditorium and settled into the theater-style seats. Musicians tuned their instruments as news crews vied for the best views in the hall.
The ceremony started with speeches by those involved in the development of the facility.
"I am asking my brothers in the local government offices to come together," said Ibrahim Mayali, the governor of Muthanna province. "Our goal is to serve the province."
Later, musical and theatrical performances, a poetry reading, and an operetta by local children were featured. The ceremony concluded with the provincial government's recognition of PRT staff.
Those that attended said they were honored to be there.
"This is my third visit to Muthanna and I told the others that my happiest day in Iraq was my first visit to Muthanna," said Barbara Leaf, Team Leader of PRT Basrah. "This facility's real value will be as a venue for the open expression of the people."
As a finishing touch, Governor Mayali signed a document transferring the facility to the provincial government, signifying a shift in responsibility from the U.S. to Iraq.