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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Iraqi Soldiers distribute school supplies

BAGHDAD — For many Iraqis, the only face of the Iraqi Security Force they see is the one patrolling the streets looking for suspected insurgents enforcing the law.

To help children see their more human, caring side, Iraqi Soldiers from Lakeside 3rd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division recently visited two schools in Hamrin, in Northern Diyalah province. The Soldiers talked to children about the importance of staying in school, and handed out school supplies. Each school also happily accepted new soccer balls.

"They’re the ones that are going to be leading Iraq's future tomorrow," said Col. Yas, the 3rd Brigade, 5th IAD, G-5, through an interpreter during a visit to a Hamrin secondary school. "They should side with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police and not side with the terrorists."

Some children were shy, others whimpered at the sight of the Soldiers, others still were eager to talk and mingle with the troops. But, as soon as the school supplies were brought into the room, each child smiled and anxiously awaited their turn to receive their treasure -- a few pencils, a sharpener, an eraser, a ruler and a pair of scissors.

"A lot of the towns see the Iraqi Army out and about but they see them doing kinetic-type operations," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Eric Viburs, on site to support the Iraqi Soldiers. "They see them doing cordon and searches; they see them doing (traffic control points) and searching cars. I think it's important for the kids to see the softer side of the Iraqi Army. They live amongst them. They serve the Iraqi people. I think it’s important for the kids to see that."

The Iraqi Army patrol ultimately voiced their message to the young students that day: we are here to help, "We are on your side."
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