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Friday, April 18, 2008

Soldiers Distribute School Supplies

From Multi-National Force - Iraq:

A student from Abu Shear School takes an arm full of backpacks back to the classroom April 14 in the Monsouri area of Iraq. Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1-76th FA, 4th BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., delivered backpacks, soccer balls and notebooks to students there. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Tami Hillis.

Friday, 18 April 2008
By Sgt. 1st Class Tami Hillis
4th BCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — A convoy rolls up to a small school in the Monsouri area of Iraq, just outside FOB Kalsu, and at first glance the school looks abandoned. Then small faces start appearing and heads lean out the windows.

Moments later, Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion, from Kalamazoo, Mich., currently assigned to 1-76th FA, are surrounded by helpful faculty and eager students, waiting to see what has been brought.

The Soldiers delivered backpacks filled with school supplies, soccer balls and notebooks April 14 to the al-Raqhaa School, for primary and secondary students, and the Abu Shear School, for primary students. Each school has approximately 800 students.

“A lot of the missions we’re doing right now are school improvements and this mission helps the kids get the materials they need in order to get an education,” said Cpl. Markbradley Vincze, a father of one from Lufkin, Texas.

Spc. Christopher Ryder, a Lake Charles, La., native and three-year veteran, said they try to put a smile on the kids’ faces.

“It makes me feel like I am actually making a difference,” Ryder said. “It shows the kids that we’re good people.”

Over time the goal is to get a backback and supplies to each student.

“Right now we’re using a systematic way of distributing our generosity throughout our (area of operation),” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Green, target acquisition platoon leader. “So we started with these two schools and we’re kind of going in a clockwise motion around our AO with school drops.”

There are approximately 10 schools in the unit’s AO.

“We’ve gotten to know the people in our AO and it feels nice doing something good for them,” said Spc. Joseph Carroll, a one-year veteran from South Bend, Ill. “It also gives the Army a positive image.”

This type of mission helps build relationship between Coalition forces and Iraqi residents.

“It shows the people that we’re not just here for ourselves; we’re going to work for the community, work for the children,” said Green, a father of three and St. Louis, Mo., native. “I think if you win the children, you win the adults. They’re kids just like our kids, they just have less.”

The unit plans to work with the CA team on a continuous basis until each school has supplies for every student, said Green.

“Hopefully the young ones remember American Soldiers as helpful, so maybe our kids won’t have to be here in 20 years,” said Pfc. Agustin Aguilar Jr., a one-year veteran from Tucson, Ariz. “They are grateful for anything and they don’t look at us and run away - they know we’re friendly to them.”

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