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Iraqi School Gets New Playground Through Team Effort

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2006 – Community members welcomed a new playground for the children of the Al Shrooq primary and secondary school in Taji, Iraq, April 19.

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Iraqi children from the Al Shrooq primary and secondary school, in Taji, Iraq, help disperse gravel April 19 at the new playground donated by Iraqi and U.S. companies. Iraqi army and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers, along with children at the school, pitched in to help make the school a better place. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

The playground was a result of hard work and determination by a combined team: the school's students and Iraqi army and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers.

The centerpiece of the children's new recreation area is a $15,000 jungle gym donated by BigToys, a U.S. manufacturer of playground equipment. A local gravel company donated the gravel, sand and concrete, and the sweat to build the project was donated by everyone involved.

"With the local merchants donating the gravel, sand, concrete and rebar, to the local guy who volunteered to move the gravel with his dump truck, it's just been a great team effort," said U.S. Army Maj. Jeff Pugh, a civil affairs officer with Company A, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Putting the playground together took about four days of hard work, during which the workers endured an array of weather from intense Middle East heat to a hailstorm. Children from the school volunteered to help each day so they would have a nice place to play.

"I am very excited about this playground at my school," said Basam, 12, who wears a Los Angeles Dodgers hat and says he learned how to speak English from American soldiers. "I have helped the Americans every day because I can't wait for it to be finished."

Building the playground took a lot of sweat and hard work, but that did not stop a National Guardsman who is scheduled to leave Iraq in 12 days and has been with the project since the beginning. "I saw an article about how BigToys had donated one of these jungle gyms to someplace here in the Middle East, so that got the wheels in my head turning," said Sgt. Lucas Murray, a landscape architect from Boston, Mass., assigned to Company D, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment, of the Rhode Island National Guard. "I called BigToys and asked if they wouldn't mind donating some playground equipment here. Long story short, nine months later, here we are putting together something wonderful.

"The kids have been great because they've really worked hard," Murray added. "Hopefully, we taught the kids a lesson because if you work hard, in the end, you get something great."

Not only did the kids work hard, but soldiers from the Iraqi army and MNDB pitched in, as well.

"When I saw everyone helping out, I couldn't help but start shoveling," said Jasim Abed, a 2nd Tank Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division soldier, who was at the school providing security. "I think this is something really great for these kids."

"This really makes you feel good giving them something they can enjoy," added Sgt. Gerardo Garcia, a member of the personal security detachment for Special Troops Battalion, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div. "We are rotating shifts so we can help out. I like helping out with something the kids will enjoy."

When everything was said and done, the playground looked like any playground you would see in any part of the world -- just full of kids having fun.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt is assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Army Master Sgt. Ronnie Reece (left), civil affairs noncommissioned officer in charge with Company A, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division; Iraqi school children; the school's headmaster; and Sgt. Lucas Murray, an infantryman who is a landscape architect from Boston, Mass., with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment with the Rhode Island National Guard, pose for a picture after the playground at the Al Shrooq primary and secondary school, in Taji, Iraq, was completed April 19. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Army Master Sgt. Ronnie Reece, civil affairs noncommissioned officer in charge in Company A, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, helps Iraqi children disperse gravel at the new playground at the Al Shrooq primary and secondary school, in Taji, Iraq, April 19. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt, USA  
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