Iraqi, U.S. Soldiers Bring Hope to Community
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2005 Iraqi army soldiers, accompanied by their U.S. counterparts from Forward Operating Base Michael, recently visited a school in downtown Mahmudiyah, Iraq, to deliver school supplies in one of the poorest communities in the area.
Iraqi Brig. Gen. Mahdi, commander of 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, reaches out to students at a school Sept. 14. "These children are the future of Iraq," Mahdi said. "The children of Iraq are going to lead the future." Photo by Spc. Tracy J. Smith, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The visit is an important part of the Iraqi army's community outreach efforts to positively influence and establish a mutual trust with the citizens they protect, officials said.
"The fine soldiers of the 4th Brigade know they must take good care of the people of this region," said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Mahdi, commander of 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division. The mission is simple, Mahdi added: "to provide a good, safe environment for (the citizens of this region) and for the children, our future leaders, to study and grow up and do the right things."
As the soldiers walked into the school, children and staff peered curiously around doors and windows.
"(The children) are growing up in a very difficult time," Mahdi explained. "But they will rebuild Iraq again. We are now creating a good environment for them by supplying them with the basics to succeed."
U.S. Army Capt. Bryan S. Mitchell, Military Integration Training Team officer with the 48th Brigade Combat Team, was noticeably impressed with the handling of the mission and the reception the Iraqi soldiers received from the community.
"It is a goodwill mission that helps inspire the local population to have faith in the intentions of the Iraqi army," Mitchell said.
Many Iraqi soldiers took the opportunity to speak candidly to the young students. The children, excited by this visit, became rambunctious, but they listened attentively to a new Iraqi recruit who took time to talk with the students.
"Respect your lessons," Pvt. Mahmud said. "These opportunities are given to you as a gift from God so that you can become great leaders, scientists and teachers or future leaders of our country."
As pencils, crayons, books and learning games were distributed, Mahdi promised it would not be the last time the soldiers paid a visit to the neighborhood. "My hope is that we will (have) this experience at least monthly or twice a month," he said. "I could not be more pleased that we, as soldiers, have this privilege. We must become friends with the people of Mahmudiyah and this region."
Walking through the community, the Iraqi soldiers shook hands, listened to concerns and reassured people that they would do what was best to provide for the growing democracy and protect them from outside agitators.
"The end result to this new beginning is going to be providing information and cooperating with the Iraqi army," Mitchell predicted. "They are willing to make a difference, and we are definitely seeing that today. They are picking up the pace and making great strides -- definitely making history."
(Army Spc. Tracy J. Smith is assigned to the 48th Brigade Combat Team.)