2nd BCT helps revitalize Samarra

| March 24, 2011 | 0 Comments
Soldiers of Battery A, 2nd Bn., 11th FA Regt., 2nd BCT, 25th ID, converse with Iraqi army soldiers and maintain security during “T-wall” removal at a mosque in Samarra, Salah ad Din province, Iraq, recently. (Capt. Pete Cox | 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

Soldiers of Battery A, 2nd Bn., 11th FA Regt., 2nd BCT, 25th ID, converse with Iraqi army soldiers and maintain security during “T-wall” removal at a mosque in Samarra, Salah ad Din province, Iraq, recently. (Capt. Pete Cox | 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
New Release

 

SAMARRA, Iraq — Two days before the fifth anniversary of the bombing of Al Askari, or Golden Mosque, security barriers protecting one of the holiest Shia shrines in Iraq came down.

“This is a great day for Samarra, and a great day for all of Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Andy Preston, commander, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “I am happy for the citizens of Samarra, who will finally see their city restored.”

Following the bombing of Al Askari in 2006, U.S. and Iraqi security forces implemented enhanced security measures to protect the mosque and the Shia pilgrims who visit each year. U.S. forces, working with Iraqi security forces, blockaded large portions of the city with “T-walls,” or tall, expediently emplaced concrete barriers that have become a common sight across Iraq.

ISFs required visitors to be escorted through blockaded T-wall channels, to and from the mosque, a process that drastically impaired Samarra’s tourism-based economy.

“We have been working so hard on this project for so long, it is hard to believe it is finally happening,” said Lt. Col. Ghayath, director, Samarra Joint Coordination Center, which synchronizes the security efforts of U.S. forces, Iraqi army, Iraqi police, federal police and the Sons of Iraq. “The people of Samarra wanted this for a very long time, and the security forces made it possible.”

According to Ghayath, ISF will maintain the re-established security in Samarra using additional police, security cameras, X-ray machines and better control of the site.

Command Sgt. Maj. Berk Parsons, senior enlisted leader, 2nd Bn., 11th FA Regt., 2nd BCT, said the significance of the T-wall removal was as an indication of progress in Samarra in terms of security.

“The city of Samarra holds a significant place in the history of Iraq,” he said. “Unfortunately, what most know about the city’s role is its contemporary history, specifically concerning its connection to the sectarian violence.

“(This) allows the city to begin its return to its former prestige,” Parsons said. “The removal of the T-walls is a tangible symbol and a phenomenal progression towards the city’s restoration.”

Although 2nd Bn., 11th FA Regt., 2nd BCT, and the combined planning team primarily focused on security for pilgrims, local citizens and the mosque, other issues played an important role.

“One of the biggest problems we faced in Samarra was the lack of available employment,” Preston said. “No matter where you are in the world, people with no money and no prospects are more likely to turn to crime and violence than those who have the ability to make a way for themselves legitimately. Re-opening these markets by taking down the T-walls will provide that legitimate opportunity.”

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Category: Deployed Forces, News

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