By Army Spc. Maurice A. Galloway
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 24, 2009 - Along with their Iraqi counterparts, U.S. soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade and the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team handed out food and supplies to residents of Faddaqhryah and Bahar, Iraq, Aug. 18. The U.S. soldiers aided in the humanitarian mission to help the Iraqi army to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and lay the groundwork for a lasting relationship between Iraq's soldiers and its people, said Army Lt. Col. Ross. C. Scott, 17th Fires Brigade civil affairs officer.
Scott said the Iraqi army delivered more than 400 packages at an estimated cost of $90,000. Each package will feed a family of eight for 30 days.
The U.S. patrol, made up of civil affairs and personnel security soldiers, left here early to link up in the Iraqi villages with their counterparts from the 14th Iraqi Army Division. In each village, the Iraqi and U.S. soldiers were met with welcoming, hopeful looks from local elders and heads of families and curious, smiling faces of children.
"This is really helpful to us," said Abod, one of hundreds of Faddaqhryah residents who lined up to collect food. "Since Ramadan is coming, we thank God for all of this. I have nine family members that all these supplies will benefit greatly."
The Iraqi soldiers were pleased to be part of such a mission.
"This is really nice. We're here helping these people who are poor and need these supplies," said Krarr Haidar, an Iraqi soldier. "Also, there are large families where no one in the household is working; these supplies benefit them the most."
Although the Iraqi army was in the lead for the mission, the 17th Fires Brigade's personnel security detachment provided additional security for the event.
"It seems as though the [Iraqi army] is becoming completely self-sufficient by the way they handled this event in a professional matter," said Army Cpl. Dale L. Comella, a medic with 17th Fires Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, Personnel Security Detachment. "Overall, I was impressed with the organization of the mission and the gratitude from the [local people]. We are trained to think that the threat is always out there, so to come in contact with these people who were so inviting and welcoming was a whole different experience for me."
An Iraqi secondary school teacher expressed gratitude for the mission. "We're so happy that the soldiers are here to help," the Bahar resident said. "We have no hospitals close by, so if we get sick we must travel far. Also, our water isn't drinkable, which is why we are very grateful that the soldiers are bringing us supplies."
A personal security detachment squad leader noted how far the Iraqi soldiers have come. "The Iraqi army has made tremendous strides toward providing for their people," said Army Staff Sgt. Samuel G. Ward. "We used to have to pull a lot of our own security, but now we're in a supervisory role where we'll aid them by pointing out something we notice, and they'll take charge in securing the threat.
"They're setting up their own operations," he continued. "They're clearly running their own show. We're just here just to point them in the right direction."
(Army Spc. Maurice A. Galloway serves with the 17th Fires Brigade.)