Friday, August 29, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 29 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Pool Reopening Symbolizes Return to Normalcy in Northern Baghdad.

“One of the first patrols we went on was to go assess this pool,” said Army Capt. Clint Rusch, a Multinational Division Baghdad fire-support officer.

Rusch, who along with his unit began operations here in early February, described the scene at the compound. Putrid-smelling water filled the three pools. A concession stand was decrepit, and an outer wall was crumbling, he said.

After that initial patrol, Rusch conferred with Army Maj. Olaf Shibusawa, Steel Company’s civil affairs officer, and started hatching a plan of how to make changes there.

Major renovations included repairing the outer wall, remodeling shower rooms and refurbishing the concession stand. Once the other details were decided upon, a contract was awarded and work began in early March. But after hostilities flared up in Sadr City in late March, work was halted for five weeks.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 26 marked the official reopening of the complex, but its doors have been able to remain open for business during refurbishment, collecting about $2 per admission. The accompanying pool hall also remains open and is a popular hangout for residents.

“Our contractor didn’t want to drain the pool completely when kids are still using it, so he was able to set it up so the kids could swim while construction was going on. They were working 24 hours a day on the project,” Rusch said.

“The perfect end state would be that the project becomes self-sufficient – it doesn’t require any American influence to be able to continue,” Rusch said. “We want the community to have the ability to experience a part of childhood that every kid should have,” he said.