Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Walker high fives an Iraqi child during the ribbon cutting ceremony for a rebuilt school here. The school was rebuilt after citizens complained that the derelict conditions were affecting the children’s learning ability. As the security issue improves many civil affairs projects such as this school are being completed.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn

Marines open new school, provide renewed hope

12 May 2007 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn

There is something changing in this riverside community. There’s a new attitude floating around in the air, a new sense of pride. People here have a new bounce in their step as they work hard on their farms, planting the seeds of life, and liberty.

What has changed here? One simple, monumental, decision made by the sheiks in the area. They stood against the fear and intimidation campaign being waged by Al Qaeda and agreed to help Coalition Forces. Together they are working to rid the province of the terrorist threat.

According to the mayor of Habbaniyah, it is a message sent to the terrorists that their part has ended and gone, never to return, “by the permission of God.”

The cooperation is paying off in other areas as well. As the security issue improves many civil affairs projects are being completed as well. Water pipelines are being fixed, the streets are being cleaned and local schools are being rebuilt.  This is the most important promise for the country’s future.

On May 12, Iraqis and Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, celebrated the opening of a newly refurbished school. The project began in February after citizens complained about the dilapidated conditions their children were learning in.

“They complained that the place was broken down,” said Gunnery Sgt. Richard L. Brumage, 30, from Pensacola, Fla. “That it wasn’t up to standards and the children were having a hard time concentrating on the lessons being learned due to the environment.

A contractor from the community was awarded the job of rebuilding the school after an arduous bidding process. The list of things that needed to be fixed was long and detailed and it was important that a trustworthy contractor do the work right.

“The school needed new bathrooms, a new water supply, and new desks and chairs for the children,” added Brumage. “The chalkboards were below standards, they needed a guard shack for a security officer on the premises, it needed paint inside and out, the wall around the perimeter needed to be torn down and rebuilt, and all the debris needed to be removed.”

The work went by quickly and in just a few short months the school was ready to be reopened. At the ribbon cutting were the mayor, the Iraqi Police chiefs for the Husaybah and Khalidyah districts, local sheiks, and tribal leaders appearing without fear to celebrate the dawn of a new day for the community. Iraqi Police swarmed the area to provide security along with Marines from I Company, 3/6.

“This is proof of the fact that security and stability have been instilled by God’s grace and through the efforts of its chivalrous people,” said the mayor. “Currently we are reinforcing and bolstering the educational process, which has been going on for the last five years despite the deteriorating situation because of terrorism and its henchmen. Today we are raising high the banner of education and knowledge and all people should look up to this country.”

The ribbon cutting did more than make the Iraqi people feel good. It also gave the Coalition Forces the feeling that they are actually making a difference here.

“Many of the Marines on our team made comments afterward stating that it really feels good to see that these children are actually getting something out of our deployment,” added Brumage.

The mayor added a message of responsibility in his statement to the people there.

“I call upon the people to look after these properties since they belong to all their sons,” he said, “as well as assisting us in developing education and teaching and in allowing this process to continue going forward.”