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Smiles Abound From Iraqi Children During 'Operation Crayon'

By Spc. Sean Kimmons, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

KIRKUK, Iraq, Nov. 3, 2004 – As if hailing a famous rock star's performance, Iraqi children shouted and waved to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (Light) soldiers and Iraqi police who visited the Halima Al-Sadeea Elementary School Oct. 21 to hand out school supplies as part of "Operation Crayon."

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Iraqi police 2nd Lt. Howry Mohammad (left) hands a school- supply package to an Iraqi student as U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Rider (center), a personal-security-detachment member from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Task Force 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, gives Mohammad packages on Oct. 21. Photo by Spc. Sean Kimmons, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Operation Crayon has been an ongoing mission for the 2nd BCT, and the excitement displayed by the school children on this day was the normal treatment soldiers get when they are around Iraqi children in this city.

"They're just like any other kid; they are shy, but will open up and are very receptive," Army Chief Warrant Officer Randall Reynolds, 2nd BCT Operation Crayon coordinator, said about the Iraqi children.

It's also fun for the soldiers to play with the kids, especially if they are parents and haven't seen their own children in months, said Reynolds, a resident of Weatherford, Okla.

The main reason for the worldwide Operation Crayon mission is to provide school supplies for American troops to distribute to needy children in countries where they are deployed. It offers an approach for posts, units, and especially family members to support their troops as they promote goodwill in war-torn countries.

The 2nd BCT's Operation Crayon mission is meant to do all that, but has incorporated help from the the Iraqi security forces to build a positive reputation among the Iraqi people.

"We are grateful to provide these supplies to the students," Sgt. Kurzan Adnan, a Kirkuk policeman, said through an interpreter. "I think the supplies will make their studies easier."

The Hawaii-based 2nd BCT, with the help from Iraqi forces, has donated more than 6,500 packages of basic school supplies to about 20 schools.

"It has been bigger than I thought it would be," Reynolds said about Operation Crayon. "It's something that the people from Hawaii plus everybody's family members throughout the states really have stepped up to help with." According to Reynolds, the operation will carry on throughout the school year.

"As we continue to receive supplies, we will go on with our volunteers to package the items and send them out to different schools," Reynolds said. "This will be a program that we will hand off to the 116th Cavalry Brigade as they come aboard."

During the Christmas holiday, 2nd BCT is planning to conduct an "Operation Santa Claus," in which soldiers will hand out gifts containing items that were donated but not used in the school supply packages. These gifts will go to orphanages.

The Operation Crayon staff is accepting donations of writing paper, construction paper, pencils, pencil sharpeners, pencil erasers, pens, markers, chalk, chalk board erasers, glue, rounded-end scissors, coloring books, soccer balls and jump ropes, adhesive bandages and, of course, crayons, preferably in 24-packs. Mail donations to Operation Crayon, Chaplain Jonathan Etterbeek, HHC 2nd BCT 25th ID, APO AE 09347-9998.

(U.S. Army Spc. Sean Kimmons is assigned to the Public Affairs Office of the 25th Infantry Division (Light).)

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2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (Light)

Click photo for screen-resolution imageIraqi students surround Army Staff Sgt. Richard Ryder, a squad leader with Company A, Task Force 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, during an Operation Crayon mission to the Halima Al-Sadeea Elementary School in Kirkuk on Oct. 21. Photo by Spc. Sean Kimmons, USA  
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