Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or scream.
By Sgt. Lynne Steely
ABU GHRAIB, Iraq (Army News Service, Oct. 6, 2005) — Concrete bunkers, strategically placed within the confines of Abu Ghraib prison for detainee protection, turned into works of art when juvenile detainees were offered the challenge to paint them in the form of a contest.
The detainees were given paint and supplies provided by the 306th Military Police Battalion’s Repair and Utilities section to decorate the bunkers, and a few theme ideas, such as “a united Iraq” to get them started.
Capt. Jim Allen, compound commander, said he came up with the idea as a way to keep the juvenile detainees’ minds occupied and to give them something to focus on.
“The juveniles become bored very easily,” said Allen. “We are always trying to think of new activities for them.”
“We also wanted to tie the contest in with the beginning of Ramadan to help get them mentally set for the holiday,” added Allen. Ramadan, which began Oct. 4, is a holy month where Muslims offer peace and treat other people with kindness and respect.
The bunkers were painted in a myriad of colors, in several designs and patterns. Some displayed phrases either in English or Arabic. One bunker read, “Help we to new Iraq. We need freedom,” amongst several painted flowers.
The contest concluded Oct. 3 when the judges determined a first-, second- and third-place winner. Judges for the contest included Lt. Col. John Hussey, 306th MP Battalion commander; Col. Bernard Flynn, Forward Operating Base Abu Ghraib commander; Col. William Ivey, Task Force-134 deputy commander; and Lt. Col. Michael Blahovec, 18th Military Police Brigade deputy commander.
First-place winners received a large edition of the Qur’an (the holy book of Islam) and seven nights of comedy movies. Second-place also received a large Qur’an and one night of comedy movies. Each of the third-place winners received seven days of special meals that included several sweet snacks and treats.
The detainees enjoyed the contest and are looking forward to another one, according to the 18th MP Brigade Arabic translator.
Another contest is planned for after the Ramadan holiday, said Allen.
(Editor’s note: Sgt. Lynne Steely serves with the 18th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs Office at Camp Victory, Iraq.)