RAMADI, Iraq --
RAMADI, Iraq – Provincial officials and Coalition force leaders gathered at the Anbar Agricultural College in Ramadi to celebrate the grand reopening of the education facility August 31.
The college, part of Al Anbar University (AAU), is made up of 18 buildings and can facilitate over 10,000 students.
The reopening of the college was just another sign of the city’s growth and redevelopment, according to Dr. Tariq Mohammed, the dean of the college.
The region, known as the “Breadbasket of Iraq” because of its heavy wheat production, has come long a long way from a couple of years ago, he said.
“Less than two years ago, this area was just rubbish,” said Saad Salman, one of the contractors for the project. “The buildings were nearly destroyed and the streets were torn apart. But now, this place is beautiful.”
The college was vacated due to insurgent attacks in June 2004 until Coalition forces secured the area and used it as a combat outpost two years later.
In 2007, Coalition forces completely demilitarized the campus and turned it over to the province, and in February funding was approved to renovate it back to its original condition.
The 4.7 million dollar project, funded by Coalition forces, was considered to be one of the largest renovations in terms of size and a vital project because of the region’s dependence on agricultural production.
“Whenever I asked random local civilians what projects they thought would have the biggest impact on Ramadi, almost every response was the Agriculture College,” said 1st Lt. Adam Taylor, a 27-year-old from Atlanta, Ga. and the project’s manager with Team 1, Civil Affairs Detachment 2 attached to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1.
The Marines with Team 1 put in a lot of work to ensure the project was completed, spending several hours with workers during each visit.
“Coalition forces played a significant role in the reopening of the college,” Taylor said. “My team spent countless hours coordinating with the project’s nine contractors, the dean of the college, and the governor’s advisor to guarantee the project and the grand opening went off without a hitch.”
The greatly anticipated reopening was mostly accredited to a significant decrease in attacks, improved security and increased professionalism amongst the Iraqi Police in the region.
The growth of the Iraqi Police force allowed the Marines from 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, to serve in an overwatch position for the reopening ceremony. The Iraqi Police primarily conducted searches and security.
“This city was plagued with violence and intimidation … it was inconceivable to even think about rebuilding,” Mohammed said, “The Iraqi Police, with the assistance of Coalition forces, have really turned this city around—life is getting back to normal.”
The college will offer students numerous course options such as food industry, plant production, soil and water resources, agricultural machinery, and fruit production.
“With the wide variety of courses the school will provide, the students can actually focus on getting their degrees and establishing a future in a safe environment,” Taylor said.
During the intense fighting that overwhelmed the region for much of the last five years, most of the city’s educational facilities were destroyed or abandoned. But now that the city is much safer, the return of educational facilities in the region has been paramount in the Coalition forces’ plan to return al Anbar to normalcy.