New school in Sagra nearing completion

30 Jan 2008 | Lance Cpl. Paul Torres 1st Marine Division

Where a pile of rubble once was, a new school is close to completion here.

 “Marines with 1st Light Armored Vehicle battalion had planned to use one of two schools in Sagra as a base of operation,” said Sgt. Jeremy A. Miller, 23, from Thompson Station, Tenn., who is a civil affairs team chief for Civil Affairs Team 5, Detachment 1, Regimental Combat Team 5.

 Once insurgents in the area learned of their plans, they destroyed the building to deter military forces from setting up here. This didn’t stop Marines from operating within the city since they still had another building to use, but now the children of Sagra didn’t have a place to go to school.

 Marines with the Civil Affairs Team 5 took on the project to remedy the situation.

 “We saw they needed a place for the children to go to school, so we set up six trailers that they could use as a temporary school,” said Staff Sgt. Jason E. Sneed, 31, from Crawford Texas, who is a civil affairs team leader with CAT 5.

 The six trailers would help for a while, but eventually the town needed a permanent facility.

 “It’s basically a box with lights and a ceiling fan set on concrete; it’s not great, but it’s something,” said Miller.

 A school facility is an important element when it comes to repairing a city that has been damaged by insurgents.

 “Not only are we giving them a place for better education; we are giving them a better future,” said Cpl. Victor E. Ortega, 24, from Gonzales La., and a civil affairs team member with CAT 5.

 CAT 5 was given the project of repairing the destroyed school on October 21, and the building is almost near completion.

 “Three months to do that type of work is outstanding,” said Sneed.

 The community in Sagra also pulled together to help repair the school from the ground up.

 “We have a contractor that has done a great job and there are people in the city that will come in and work for less pay or even volunteer to help set up the school,” said Sneed.

 When the building is completed, it will be able to house 200 children at a time. Typically the classes will run in shifts all day so the building will receive a lot of use.

 “To me, this showed how the Civil Affairs functions as a weapon against the terrorists,” said Sneed.

 Marines were able to still operate within the zone, provide a new school and hire a local contractor and workers so there is money and jobs being pumped into their economic system.

 “We showed that even if the insurgency knocks a school down, we will come and build it back up,” said Ortega.

1st Marine Division