AL ASAD, Iraq (April 2, 2008) -- A ground-breaking ceremony held today marked the beginning of construction for a new chapel on the south side of the base here.
The $280,000 contract, part of the ‘Iraqi First’ program, marked the first time an Iraqi construction company has performed work aboard al-Asad since the war began. The program started last year and has contracted dozens of projects aboard U.S. installations throughout Iraq.
“The U.S. government is reaching out and trying to help the Iraqi companies and people find more work and stimulate their economy,” said Navy Cmdr. Roland Mina, the public works officer for al-Asad.
The program has provided work for many Iraqi craftsmen across the country and has a far-reaching impact on the communities surrounding the bases.
“The program allows me to help my people,” said Ali Faris, the owner of al- Folatheya, the company contracted to build the chapel. “I have fulfilled 12 contracts on American bases and the work provides money for my workers and their families and also to the markets where I buy my material and machinery.”
The concept of building a chapel on the south side of base began as a request from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Sadlo, a former operations officer of al-Asad.
“The request couldn’t be filled while 2nd MAW was here, but the Base Command Group made sure it wasn’t forgotten as they changed places with 3rd MAW,” Sadlo explained. “The BCG took on a lot of responsibility in order to help the two wings focus on their turnover.”
The turnover was the first of many hurdles to overcome before construction could begin.
“We were in uncharted water when this started,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Leininger, a contractor accountability assistant for the BCG. “Basically, we had to figure out how we were going to get all of these Iraqis and their equipment on base. In the end, we coordinated with the provost marshal’s office and developed a plan for moving the material and getting the appropriate security for the workers and the construction site.”
The provost marshal’s office performed background checks, issued badges to the workers and will inspect all equipment and material coming aboard the base, according to Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Paul Pritchard, anti-terrorism force protection officer, Marine Wing Support Group 37, and native of Dallas.
The combined efforts of the personnel who made the construction possible will benefit the morale of the flight line personnel, said Navy Lt. Frank Riley, a chaplain for Marine Aircraft Group 16.
“Right now, we have a very small chapel for the flight line service members and some have to travel across base for their services,” explained Riley, an Orange, Calif. native. “The new chapel will really help them out.”
With the construction underway, the chapel will not only be a welcome improvement for the service members, but also strengthens the bond between the air base and the surrounding community outside the gates.
“As the owner of an Iraqi construction business, I look forward to building a reputation for quality work,” Faris added. “So that the U.S. will have greater trust in Iraqi companies and will do more business with them in the future.”