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Infantry 'Spartans' Deliver Supplies to Girls' School

By Cpl. Benjamin Cossel, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 2, 2004 – Students of the city's 14th of July Girls' School received an unexpected gift when soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, handed out 500 backpacks loaded with school supplies, candy and other items.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Students from the 14th of July Girls' School in Baghdad look over the contents of backpacks donated by soldiers from 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. Located in the Rusafa district of Baghdad, the school is part of the battalion's neighborhood for community outreach. Photo by Cpl. Benjamin Cossel, USA
  

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

As part of an ongoing effort to reach out and work within communities in their area of operations, commanders look for locations where the United States can best provide civil assistance.

"We were constantly receiving emails from friends and family members back home wanting to know what they could do to help out," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Campbell, the battalion civil-military liaison noncommissioned officer. "We worked with the area council members and identified an easy and affordable means by which they (friends and families) could help."

Located in the Rusafa district of Baghdad, the 14th of July School, an all-girls' school, is part of the battalion's neighborhood.

"This was a win-win type situation," Campbell said. "Family members were able to be involved, and we were able to give something back to the community in which we live."

Speaking through a translator, battalion commander Lt. Col. Charles Sexton led students in a chant of "S-C-H-O-O-L" and held a competition to see which class was the loudest. The winner received its new backpacks first.

"We all know how important school is, and we all know how important it is that you have the right supplies to be able to complete your studies," Sexton said. "And that is why I am proud to present to you this little gift from the soldiers of the 1-36, 'Spartans,' and the American people."

Being the fourth visit to area schools, the unit's soldiers have delivered about 400 backpacks per school, bringing the distribution total to 1,500, Campbell said.

Pupils react with excitement. Sometimes ignoring calls to stay within their assembled groups, they ask the soldiers for autographs and to have their picture taken with them.

"I love the American soldier, they are beautiful. I love what they do for us," said one student as she stood in line.

"As I look out on this group of outstanding students, many of you reaching an age where you will soon be going on to college, I'm happy to say that you are taking a step into a new future for Iraq," said Col. Pete R. Mansoor, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, "a future where all will be able to receive an education no matter their race, religion, creed or gender."

(By Army Cpl. Benjamin Cossel is assigned to the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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