March 12, 2008 —
Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. greets Judge Razak, investigative judge for the Mada’in Qada, at the government center in Salman Pak, March 10. (U.S. Army photo)
FOB HAMMER, Iraq (March 11, 2008) — On March 10, Iraqi judges surveyed the new government center in Salman Pak during their first visit back since 2005.
The facility was designed to place the courthouse, police, fire and emergency medical services in one central location.
In 2005, the judges were forced to relocate from Salman Pak when extremist groups made the area too dangerous to remain.
Col. Ryan J. Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., deputy commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, praised Judge Hassen, one the judges who viewed the facility, for returning to Salman Pak after being shot there three years ago.
“We talk about heroes all the time, but it is very rare that we get to meet one,” Kuhn said. “You honor us by being here. Your bravery will inspire many in this area. ”
Leaders in the 3rd BCT have worked with Iraqi security forces to secure Salman Pak since the brigade’s arrival to the area last March. At the meeting, they assured the judges the area was secure.
“We feel that the area is secure and is ready for your return,” said Lt. Col. Jack Marr, from Minneapolis, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. “There will definitely be no shortage of work for you here. I was stopped three times on my way down here by citizens that have issues that need to be heard by you.”
After viewing the facility, Judge Razak, the investigative judge for the Mada’in Qada, agreed it was time for the judges to return.
“I’ve seen a big difference on the streets today,” he said. “There are lots of people moving around on the streets. It looks better. Consider the judges back. We can be operating here in a couple of days if we can get all of our equipment and assistants here.”
Kuhn was happy to hear the news and said their visit marked an exciting day.
“I know we are going to do great things for the good people here,” Kuhn said. “We believe that more people will return when they hear that the court is back. This will bring more life back to this area.”
Razak agreed, saying that Salman Pak was once a peaceful place.
“Foreign terrorists penetrated this place and destroyed everything we had,” Razak said. “Rule of law needs to take the place of revenge here.”
Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, from Prince George’s County, Md., commander of the 3rd BCT, congratulated the judges on their decision and offered them his help in rebuilding their city.
“We all remember where this place was a year ago,” he said. “We have worked hard to restore order and security here. Extremists cannot operate here now. It is now time for the Iraqi people stand up and bring rule of law back to Salman Pak. The people here will follow their leaders. I appreciate your leadership and taking this place to the next level.”
The 1-15 Inf. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.