Monday, February 16, 2004


One building at a time.
An Iraqi mother in a head scarf sang softly to her baby as she fed the child on a bed at the Women's and Children's Hospital.

The 500-bed hospital off Highway 10 now has a new air conditioning system and clean water for its patients due to a project financed and directed by 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry, Florida National Guard.

"It's the right thing to do," said the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Hector Mirabile of Miami. "When we first got here, we contracted with an Iraqi doctor to assess the condition of the hospital. We've got to take care of the women and children."...

But even that poor condition is a universe better than what the hospital looked like before, Guardsmen say. Capt. Paul Blackketter, in charge of civic action projects for 1st Battalion, said the place was a shambles when he first saw it.

"It was filthy, with the walls completely covered with dirt, from 30 years of outright neglect," Blackketter said. "In the summer, it gets to be 125 degrees here. Our main focus became the mechanical aspects. It was critical that we provide air conditioning and clean water."

After that, the battalion paid to have the walls painted, the sewage treatment plant repaired, the interior ductwork and filters replaced.

Cost: $100,000. The best part for the American taxpayer was that the United States didn't foot the bill. Most of the $3 million to $4 million in civic projects started or completed by the unit were paid for by confiscated Iraqi assets.
Good will open your eyes to the work the troops are still doing.

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