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A citizen of Ramadi points out structural damage on the roof of a boys and girls school to Staff Sgt. Earl Lucas, a platoon sergeant with Regimental Combat Team 1, June 18. Repairing the schools in Ramadi has been a key effort in the rebuilding stage. A number of schools in the city are in need of renovations due to structural damage and leaky roofs. "(Repairing the schools is essential because) it's a school, it's their future," said Cpl. Chris Sarlo, a squad automatic weapon gunner with Weapons Company. "The children coming up now grew up around violence and fighting. Now that the fighting is over with, we need to focus on their education and hopefully make everything better in the region."

Photo by Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

Ramadi rebuilds as region recovers from violence

19 Jun 2008 | Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

RAMADI, Iraq (June 19, 2008) – Ramadi was regarded by many to be one of the most violent cities in Iraq for much of the last five years. The thought of rebuilding the troubled city during that time was improbable, the risks were too high. Now, Ramadi is much safer and rebuilding the city is no longer just an impossible idea but an everyday reality in the recovering region. 

The country is now transitioning from violence and fighting, to healing and freedom. The focus in Ramadi, and all of al-Anbar Province, is no longer on warfare but on reconstructing the region’s damaged infrastructure.

“Ramadi is at the point now to where it’s secure enough to rebuild,” said Staff Sgt. Earl Lucas, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1.

One of the key efforts in the rebuilding stage of Ramadi has been repairing the schools. A number of schools in the city are in need of renovations due to structural damage and leaky roofs. The battalion’s Marines, along with Iraqi security forces, conduct daily patrols through the neighborhoods to survey the condition of the schools.

“Repairing the schools is essential because it’s a school—it’s their future,” said Cpl. Chris Sarlo, a squad automatic weapon gunner with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, during a foot patrol to inspect a nearby school. “The children coming up now grew up around violence and fighting. Now that the fighting is over with, we need to focus on their education and hopefully make everything better in the region.”

While many schools throughout Ramadi are being assessed and renovated, it is only one of the many issues being focused on by both Iraqi and Coalition forces in an effort to return Ramadi to normalcy.

One of the most visible changes in the city has been the constant effort to remove rubbish from the streets.

“A real big problem in the city right now is trash,” said Gunnery Sgt. John Cuoco, a team leader with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, an artillery battery currently serving as a civil affairs group in direct support of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. “Iraqi and Coalition forces are making efforts to have the locals use the dumpsters. We are doing several campaigns to increase awareness. We recently gave informational products to put in every classroom in Ramadi to explain to the children why it’s important for them not to litter and use the dumpsters.”

Although the city is still taking steps forward in its rebuilding efforts, the Iraqis are making progress everyday in rejuvenating and reviving their city to restore it to what it was before the war.

“The locals seem to have a genuine interest in what is going on,” Gunnery Sgt. Cuoco said. “But, a tremendous amount of work still needs to be done.”

The citizens are excited and are paying close attention to the encouraging changes in their city. According to Cuoco, a 46-year-old Tucson, Ariz.-native, he always receives a welcoming response and “shukran,” Arabic for “thank you,” from the locals for his help.

“Very few people in the city are hostile towards us.” Cuoco said, “Most of the locals are really enthusiastic about the rebuilding efforts and more often than not they try to help us and get involved.”

The changes in Ramadi are evident. Less than a year and a half ago, the city had essentially no electricity or trash collection, and running water was limited in the city. Today, the streets are getting cleaned up, new construction is everywhere, the city’s electricity situation is steadily improving, running water is available throughout the city, and trash collection is operated completely by Ramadi’s municipal workers.


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