Sunday, December 2, 2007

Good News from Iraq: 2 Dec 2007

From MNF-I, Mosul Passenger Terminal Ready for Flights to Mecca.

MOSUL — A long-awaited passenger terminal project here that had lagged behind schedule now is complete. Less than three months after Mustafa Yoldah left his company’s office in Turkey and came to Mosul with a new foreman and extra workers, the project was finished.

“He made it happen,” said Alda Ottley, project engineer for this facility. The terminal is now ready for the more than 2,800 Iraqis who hope to make their way to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in December. A tenet of Islam is that able-bodied Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives.

“The hajj flights will be the first commercial flights since 1993,” Ottley said. The original airport was built from 1992 to 1993, but commercial flights were available for less than a year before the Mosul air space became a no-fly zone.

The Mosul airport fell into disrepair over the years. It is currently located between two Coalition bases, Forward Operating Base (FOB) Diamondback and FOB Marez. Recent renovations include a new air-traffic control tower in addition to the passenger terminal, both with program and construction management by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“It’s always good to see a project finished, considering the problems we encountered and how we overcame them,” Ottley said. “I learned from this project … from a construction and engineering standpoint.

“The government of Iraq has asked for a reduced presence of Americans around the airport when the flights start, but … we will still be working outside the terminal, asphalting the main roads and the parking lot,” she added.

She explained that passengers will be processed through security and baggage checks at another location and then transported directly to the entrance of the passenger terminal.

“A hajj committee agent will stay with his or her group of 76 people 24/7 through the entire trip until they return to Mosul,” R.C. Shackelford, the provincial program manager for the U.S. State Department’s Iraq Transition Assistance Office in Mosul. “The Iraqi government hopes to have two commercial flights daily to Baghdad by spring, which would be a real boost to the economy.”

Although a couple of minor issues remain to be finalized inside the passenger terminal, Ottley said, it will be ready for the Muslim pilgrimage. “The baggage claim belts haven’t arrived yet, but should be here by the first of December.”

Ottley has been a project engineer in the Gulf Region North district more than two years. She deployed from her home district of St. Paul, Minn., to Sulaymaniyah in 2005 and worked there until she moved to the Mosul Area Office in February 2006. Currently, her other reconstruction projects include the Mosul Courthouse, which was extensively damaged in September by a truck bombing, and renovation of the Ibn Sena cardiac surgical wing, only the second such facility in Iraq.