RFS renovates mosque for Iraqi Army

Photos and story by Sgt. Chad Menegay
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE DIAMONDBACK, IRAQ — Daily calls to prayer from the public address systems of mosques in Mosul, Iraq, surrounding Contingency Operating Site Diamondback, Iraq, echo in through the air. Muslims at COS Diamondback may respond, but over the last seven years, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, they have not had an operational mosque on base to worship from.

There has been a mosque existing at COS Diamondback since before OIF began in 2003, but until recently “it was overrun, paint peeling off, just in horrible shape,” said 1st Lt. David Strickland, commander of the 596th Transportation Detachment (Movement Control Team), 14th Transportation Battalion, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and an Atlanta native.

Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th SC(E), under the direction of Col. Charles E. Sexton, commander of 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, has contracted an Iraqi company to clean up, renovate and do utility work on the mosque.

“The Iraqi Army said they want to start getting access to that mosque,” said Lt. Col. Warner Holt, commander of RFS and an Estill Springs, Tenn., native. “We said, ‘hey, we will help you’.”

Holt said members of the Iraqi military are likely to use the mosque again when U.S. forces leave, perhaps sooner, the way they did before 2003.

“This was, during the initial assault, an Iraqi base,” Strickland said. “I’m sure that (the mosque) probably hasn’t seen any real positive attention for six or seven years.”

Holt said there have been numerous occasions in which people have talked about what can be done to upgrade the mosque.

He said he credits the Combined Coordination Center, a meeting place for military and non-military entities involved in stabilization and reconstruction, for communicating with the Iraqi Army regarding the issue.

“The CCC is trying to bring together the different cultures in this area of operation,” Holt said. “They work with the Federal Police, the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish troops. They’re trying to meld all those differences and those cultures together so they are an effective security force for this area and, in particular, Mosul.”

Holt said the RFS supports the CCC, in part, by painting, cleaning up and upgrading buildings for the eventual base turnover to Iraqi forces.

“The last estimate is that we used over 350 gallons of paint; we’ve painted over 100 buildings,” Holt said.

As service members are restricted from entering a mosque, the RFS hired local Iraqi and Turkish personnel to do the job.

“Our goal and focus is to give them something better than when we came into the picture,” Holt said, “something they could feel proud of, something we could feel good about.”

 

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Ali Vahya (left) and another Iraqi worker stand atop the mosque at Contingency Operating Site Diamondback, Iraq June 10 during a break from pressure washing the roof. The mosque is being renovated under the supervision of Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) for members of the Iraqi military to use. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

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Ali Kazim, an Iraqi worker, and a Mosul, Iraq, native, takes a rest June 10 after pressure washing the roof of the mosque at Contingency Operating Site Diamondback, Iraq. The mosque is being renovated under the supervision of Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) for members of the Iraqi military to use. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

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The mosque at Contingency Operating Site Diamondback, Iraq, is being renovated under the supervision of Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The mosque will soon be operational for members of the Iraqi military to use. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)