By Army Pfc. J. Princeville Lawrence
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 1, 2009 - Kids love anything free. So when Border Training Team Tribal delivered children's medicine and candy to the people in Iraq's Maysan province Sept. 6, the kids were elated – at least for the candy. The team's mission was to distribute children's medicine to the soldiers of 1st Battalion, 41st Iraqi Army Brigade.
"What we're trying to do is build relationships with the village," said Army Sgt. John Young, an Aurora, Colo., native and a medic with Team Tribal. "This medicine is mostly for the children. There's a lot of good stuff here -- penicillin, cough medicine, children's vitamins."
Rashead Tiema, a medic with the Iraqi army brigade, looked through the box of medical supplies and said simply, "Thank you."
"A lot of [the Iraqi soldiers] have the training, but not the supplies," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Steven Ward, a Fort Walton Beach, Fla., native and Team Tribal's chief medic. "This will help them get experience."
The Iraqi brigade's commander was happy to receive the supplies. "We can give this to the children, and we can help build relations," Maj. Hussein Yuones said. "For the medical supplies, we have plans for the children in the village here. If there are any children who are sick, they can find help."
Meanwhile, other Border Training Team Tribal members were congratulating an Iraqi soldier who had found a rocket in the nearby village.
"It's great seeing our training put to work," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Alfonso Mendoza Jr., a native of Muleshoe, Texas, and a platoon sergeant with the team.
Team members also visited the Iraqi soldiers' motor pool, where they talked with their counterparts to ensure they had the proper technical manuals and replacement parts for their Humvees.
Before leaving the base, Young had hatched a plan to hand out candy, cookies, apple sauce and energy bars from field rations. Shortly after leaving the Iraqi compound, the team stopped in the nearby village, soon attracting a crowd of curious and eager children who held up their hands while the adults and teens stood in the background, grinning.
The assertive kids ended up with armfuls of food, while the shy kids hung around the periphery waiting for things to turn their way. Knowing this, Young and Mendoza made a conscious effort to reach over the thicket of children's arms to ensure everyone received something.
The box of treats ran out in about five minutes. The children came and left like the tide, but not before Young and Mendoza could pose for pictures with them.
There's something cathartic about helping kids, about giving armfuls of candy, cookies and treats to kids who need them, Young said.
"Any time you see a smile on their faces, it takes your mind off everything [bad] that happens here," Young said. "That's the reason we're over here."
And when those kids complain of stomachaches from their tasty treats, at least now their parents will have the medicine to treat them.
(Army Pfc. J. Princeville Lawrence serves with the 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.)