Helping out the neighborhood

Story by Pfc. Blanka Stratford
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office

During the first two of several upcoming missions designed to improve the education system in the village of Anwar, Iraq, the 13th COSCOM Civil Affairs team conducted a general sight survey to ensure security and situational awareness, Feb. 10, and then united with voluntary Air Force members to distribute school supplies in the vicinity, Feb. 14.

"There is a small school [in Anwar], which has not been a regular part of US aid," said Lt. Col. Nicholas Zoeller, 13th COSCOM CA officer-in-charge. "We're going to start helping them out by assessing the condition of the school and the road leading to it, so that we may add some funds to the school and have it refurbished."

Anwar, less than a mile from LSA Camp Anaconda, is a representative system of post-war Iraq. There is no fresh water in the town: the people get their drinking water from an unsanitary canal nearby; many children run around barefoot or even naked at times; and school structure is substandard.

"We're trying to help out the community as much as we can," said Sgt. Stephen Soliz, 13th COSCOM CA administrative associate. "It's an unforgettable experience, especially when encountering the children."

"The children are what makes these humanitarian aid trips so important," said Maj. Bryn Russell, Air Force commander of Warrior Bravo mission. "They are the wave of Iraq's future. They need to be taken care of."

An additional reason for going to the Anwar village is that it's in close proximity to Balad.

"It's important for the population to be taken care of and the infrastructure to be enhanced," said Zoeller. "The happier and more prosperous the residents are, the better relations [US forces] will have with them and the better security."

The Air Force and the 13th COSCOM CA team will be distributing basic supplies to the school and its enrolled children. The supplies - to include notebooks, rulers, pencils, pens and paper - are part of a voluntary donation program initiated in the United States.

"There is a shortage of school supplies throughout Iraq, even in Baghdad," said Zoeller. "The country needs all the help it can get."

According to Zoeller, major sponsorship will also be provided by actor Gary Sinise, who stars as Lieutenant Dan in the Oscar-winning film Forrest Gump. Sinise, who has recently traveled to Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq as part of a USO tour, was scheduled to make an appearance on the Tonight Show, urging people nationwide to aid in the contribution of education materials to Iraq, particularly in the local Balad area.


Small children from the town of Anwar, Iraq.
(US Army photo by Pfc. Blanka Stratford)

Lt. Col. Nicholas Zoeller
Lt. Col. Nicholas Zoeller, 13th COSCOM Civil Affairs officer-in-charge, exchanges a few words with a small child from the town of Anwar, Iraq.
(US Army photo by Pfc. Blanka Stratford)