Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 27, 2007 - Making a visible, positive impact during a tour in Iraq is something to which every deployed servicemember aspires. For an Army staff sergeant deployed to Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, the quest to make his impact took him to Iraqi neighborhoods and schools. Staff Sgt. Carlos Escuza, who is part of the command's convoy security team known as the Rough Riders, has been providing supplies, gifts and goodwill to Iraqis since his arrival in May.
"Every little bit helps in changing attitudes, you know," he said. "It's about attitudes -- what they think of us before they know us, and what they think of us after they get to know us."
His latest trip was Dec. 26 to the Central Baghdad Educational Center, just inside the International Zone. During this trip, the sergeant and others from the command delivered school supplies, stuffed animals and candy to the school.
After noticing the soldiers arriving at the school to deliver the needed notebooks, pens and other supplies, the school's children began gathering around and waiting for their share of what the troops brought.
Before long, more than 50 Iraqi children had swarmed the troops. Despite being overwhelmed by the number of children, Escuza and Army 1st Sgt. Garry Dietzman continued handing out gifts and candy to the excited children.
"Every time we come back, I love each and every one of those kids," Dietzman, the Rough Riders first sergeant, said. "I have a blast with them."
Since May, Escuza and Dietzman have spread gifts and goodwill throughout the Baghdad area. The two soldiers began by adopting 14 local families. They began to recruit more help from servicemembers working within the command for their twice-monthly visits.
After his early efforts for those adopted families, Escuza visited the Baghdad educational center with a Navy chief warrant officer, who showed him how he could help Baghdad schools. Escuza and Dietzman followed up with another visit to the school, asking the staff what supplies they needed most.
Escuza and Dietzman are planning more trips to the school to deliver supplies and see what else is needed. They rely mostly on supplies sent from the United States, they said.
Supplies that the school needs the most are art equipment and musical instruments, school staff members told the soldiers. With Iraq's school systems starting fresh, art and music programs are still in the early stages.
For the two soldiers, their efforts are all about the kids and the relationships they form with them, Dietzman said.
"I feel a sense of accomplishment, like I'm doing something to help somebody else, and it's giving me a much better perspective of what we're doing here," he said.
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Frost serves with Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs.)