Soldiers distribute school supplies to Iraqi children
By Spc. Steven J. Schneider
28th Public Affairs Detachment
LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — Nearly 1,000 back packs loaded with school supplies were distributed to children at Bakr Village just outside LSA Anaconda Nov. 1.
The 13th Corps Support Command Civil Affairs mission was the largest they've done, and had about 40 Soldiers, ranging in rank from private to colonel.
Members of the 13th COSCOM staff, Special Troops Battalion, Corps Distribution Command, 84th Engineer Battalion and 81st Brigade Combat Team helped with the distribution.
"I'd like to believe this lets them (the children) know we care about their mental welfare as well as their physical welfare," said Sgt. Draughn Ryal, 81st BCT, who went on his first school supply mission.
Many of the children could hardly hold back their excitement when Soldiers entered the classrooms, hoping to shake hands or talk with an American. Ryal said he had a lump in his throat handing out bags.
"These kids have so little, and they get so excited about these small backpacks," he said.
Ryal said this changed his perspective from a negative to a positive view of the Iraqi people. A sentiment shared by others.
"I had become cold and frustrated toward the Iraqi people," said Spc. Jose Zayas, STB, 13th COSCOM. "This brought the softer side of me out. I saw the children and the people today, and these people want our help, and we're going to give it to them."
The school supplies included pens, pencils, notebook paper and other common materials Americans often take for granted. Some bags had toys or candy in them. This was only one of many school supply missions done in the area. Civil Affairs ran 13 school distributions in October. Operation Anaconda Neighborhood distributed school supplies to more than 3,800 students during the month of October.
The supply distribution is just part of the $4.2 million in infrastructure improvements 13th COSCOM has made in the neighboring villages since January.
Editors Note: Spc. Schneider is a member of the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. He is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.