Marines and Iraqi soldiers spread cheer to students in Al Anbar
3/5/2010 By Cpl. Triah Pendracki, Multi National Force – West

Americans are known to have a surplus of many things, which often go to waste or are forgotten about when the next “big thing” comes on the market. To combat some of that regular behavior, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Task Force Military Police, aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, decided to enlist the help of the Iraqi army to disperse many of their little extras to the children of Iraq’s Al Anbar province. “Since we’ve been out here, we have acquired extra supplies from care packages and other sources,” explained 1st Sgt. R. Lance Nutt, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Bn., 24th Marines, and project organizer. “We made contact with the 7th Iraqi Army Division through the Military Transition Team on Al Asad and started planning distribution.” What started as an idea for a small delivery to a few families grew to something much bigger. “The 7th IA [Division] leaders decided to distribute the supplies and gifts to schools near Baghdadi,” said Nutt. “It’s great to see how this has gone from a small mission to one that has a greater impact on the Iraqi people.”

The Iraqi army took the lead on planning and decided how the supplies and gifts would be distributed. “We decided that the schools would be more beneficial for delivery,” said Iraqi Col. Mazem Abd Allah, the commanding officer for the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance Battalion. “It gives the Iraqi army an opportunity to do some good in the community and show the public that the military is not always fighting.” As the Marines and IA soldiers rolled up to the Amer Bin Rabeea’a Elementary School outside of Baghdadi and entered the classrooms of the students, the happiness was evident in the students’ faces.

“I was really happy to give gifts to the kids,” said Cpl. Michelle Rumple, the Headquarters and Service Company clerk. “More than that though, I was excited to go into their classrooms and interact with them.”

Together, the Iraqis and the Marines handed out pencils, pens and notebooks to the eager children. Many of the children were given footballs, other small toys and snacks. “We just want to make all the kids happy in the area,” said Abd Allah. “Some of the children were very hesitant to take stuff from me until the Iraqi soldiers talked to them,” added Rumple. “They said ‘thank you,’ and a lot of them were excited to get the gifts, especially the little boys.”

The 7th IA Division plans on doing more of these humanitarian missions in the near future. “We have already delivered medical supplies to facilities out in
town, and we are getting ready to hand out more gifts to children,” concluded Abd Allah. “These missions bring a lot of support [to] the Iraqi people, who we are here to defend.”