29th Signal Battalion distributes school supplies, goodwill to local village
By Capt. Cathy Wilkinson
28th Public Affairs Detachment Commander
LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — Across America, students are returning to school armed with new clothes, backpacks, pens, pencils and other school supplies and thanks to the generosity of schools and families in Washington state, students in Iraq have the same opportunity to start their new school year with new supplies as well.
Soldiers from the 29th Signal Battalion strengthened their ties with students from the Al Salam Primary School in Al Bu Hassan by delivering donated school supplies and new clothes to a crowd of about 40 students and teachers.
The battalion, from Fort Lewis, Wash., collected pens, pencils, paper, scissors and other school supplies from members of their family readiness groups and from students in schools surrounding the Tacoma installation. The Seattle Seahawks contributed by donating hats and shirts for the children in the village.
Iraqi contractors finished construction of the Al Salam School last month and the village and battalion celebrated the school's opening with a ribbon cutting and a donation of new desks, chairs and blackboards. The Soldiers then returned to the village on the first day of school to hand out the donated supplies and clothing.
"Four months ago, this school did not exist. Kids had to walk through other villages to get to school and now they have one of the newest schools in all of Iraq right in their own backyards," said Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Carson, the 29th Signal Battalion reenlistment counselor.
Carson was one of the driving forces behind the school supply donations and the battalion's involvement with the village. He worked with the families of deployed Soldiers and with church groups and schools near Fort Lewis to let them know how they could help improve the lives of Iraqi children by sending school supplies and clothing. Carson is also the battalion representative to Operation Anaconda Neighborhood and coordinates volunteer projects for the battalion to support.
Although the crowd at the school was a small fraction of the school's total population, kids were running around the school yard enjoying their new supplies, hats and t-shirts while playing with footballs and soccer balls that were included as part of the donation. The battalion plans to return to the school in October when the entire student body is in session to distribute more supplies.
The school was built through funds coordinated by the 13th Corps Support Command's Operation Anaconda Neighborhood, which has funded more than $4.3 million in infrastructure improvements ranging from school construction to water treatment facilities since January.
Editor's note: Capt. Wilkinson commands the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. She is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.
(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - 1st Sgt. Robert Noyes is surrounded by school children in Al Bu Hassan, a local village near here, during a school supply distribution mission Sep. 2.
(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Staff Sgt. Christina Johnston, 29th Signal Battalion, stands with two Iraqi girls at the Al Salam primary school in Al Bu Hassan, a village near here, while on a school supply distribution mission Sep. 2.