Airmen pick up pieces before historic handover

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jason Lake
  • 321st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
More than 35 Airmen and Soldiers volunteered to clean up the Victory Over America Palace at Camp Slayer June 5 through 7.

The palace, which is one of 70-plus palaces Saddam Hussein built throughout the country, will soon be returned to the Iraqi government.

The three-day cleanup effort was coordinated by Staff Sgt. Teresa Pavljuk.

"Now that tours are over, I volunteered to open (the palace) up and organized for (Airmen) at Sather Air Base to clean it up," she said. "I'm doing something that is part of history. I'm giving back palaces to Iraq. How many people can actually say they did that while deployed?"

Over the past eight years, the bombed-out palace had been used for office and dormitory space, supply storage and even as a dining facility before it became a novelty site where deployed service members took occasional supervised visits for souvenir photos.

"We had a lot of military people here back in 2003," said Sergeant Pavljuk, a 447th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial porter. "Now we're cleaning up the mess. There's a lot of wood, glass and metal. We're taking it all out and trying to make any kind of presence we had here go away (before) we sign (the palace) back over to the Iraqi general."

For some Sather Air Base newcomers, like Staff Sgt. Nicole Beye, it was an opportunity to help out U.S. Army property caretakers while getting a glimpse inside Iraq's historical landmark.

"We helped the Army out. We filled up a flatbed and a regular truck several times," said the 447th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron weather observer. "(I've moved) more than I've ever moved before in my life. I'm glad I had the opportunity to come out here and actually look at it since nobody else will be able to after this."