By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Williams
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 17, 2008 - Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers, community leaders and Iraqi security forces handed out backpacks and school supplies to boys and girls Oct. 12 at four schools in the Abu Tshir community of southern Baghdad's Rashid district. The event was one of four school-supply distributions conducted Oct. 12 to 16 in the Abu Tshir, Saha, Mechaniks and Five Farms areas in southeastern Rashid, said Army Capt. Neville McKenzie, a detachment team leader from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., assigned to Company D, 404th Civil Affairs Battalion.
"This is an opportunity for the national police and the neighborhood advisory council to provide school bags for the [students] here in Abu Tshir," said McKenzie, who is attached to the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
"This is a good opportunity for them to show the community that they are working for them and that they support them, and a good chance for the community to see the good that they can do for them as well," he said.
The 404th Civil Affairs Detachment, stationed at Fort Dix, N.J., provided the school bags collected from Multinational Division Baghdad at Camp Liberty, Iraq, to distribute to schools throughout the East Rashid community, McKenzie said.
Leaders from the 4th Infantry Division's 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and deployed here, worked with national police training teams and local leaders from the neighborhood advisory council to coordinate for the Iraqi security forces to participate.
Such community events help to build the Iraqi security forces' relationship with the local people and to legitimize the Iraqi government in their eyes, McKenzie said.
"It shows that [they] are here to provide security and are looking out for the well-being of the people of Abu Tshir," said Army Maj. Robert Burgess, a national police training team advisor assigned to the 6010th NPTT, 1st Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Riley, Kan.
Capt. Ryan Burcham, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's Troop A, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, said that like the squadron's other troop commanders, he works very closely with the local leadership council in his operating area to meet the needs of the entire community, which includes neighborhood school projects.
The school supply distribution provides soldiers the chance to relax and the opportunity to help the local leadership in showing that U.S. soldiers are working with the Iraqi security forces to support the community.
"This is great," said Burcham, a San Diego native. "Just these little things, that are really easy for us to do, go a long way with reaching out to the community and building a relationship with the local community."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Williams serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)