Story courtesy of the Utah National Guard
On April 4 members of A Company and Headquarters Company, 141st MI Bn., coordinating with C Battery, 2-11th Field Artillery stationed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, conducted a humanitarian mission with the local Shehabi Iraqi Police Department.
The task was to deliver soccer equipment and jerseys donated by the Cache County School District in Cache County, Utah, and local businesses and families.
Soldiers also shared with the Iraqis hand-crafted scarves and articles of clothing donated from families in Utah to help the children in the area, who now have a few new items of clothing to wear to go along with their fresh perspective on the role of Iraqi police in their area.
The intent of the mission was to enable the Shehabi Iraqi Police Department to develop stronger relationships with the local populace who they defend and support, and to put a compassionate face on the Iraqi police and enable a new generation of Iraqis to have confidence that the police officials care about the general welfare of the citizens they have sworn to protect.
This mission set a precedent of renewed respect for this police department and shed light on what the community can hope to expect from their local law enforcers as the terrain unfolds during and after Operation Iraqi New Dawn.
The mission was coordinated by Army 1st Lt. Ryan Furman and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Crisolo of the 1st Platoon, C Battery, 2-11th Field Artillery, with the members of the 141st MI Bn, and they rolled out in several Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles with an entire MRAP dedicated to hauling the soccer equipment, clothes, and toys.
Members of the 141st MI Bn. were prepared to act on any potential threat and a security team was dispatched to set up a cordon and defensive perimeter once on site.
Soldiers reported that there was seamless communication between the varying groups who put their different operating styles aside to come together and see this wholly altruistic mission through to fruition.
The event occurred on a weekend which required several policemen to attend during what would normally be their free time, and Soldiers began by helping the Iraqi police get organized and ready to distribute the humanitarian supplies.
Initially, Soldiers on the humanitarian crew asked if enough children would show up to receive all of the school kits and soccer gear.
Responding quickly to this concern, an Iraqi police captain ordered one of his men to drive his truck and announce to the public in the surrounding area that they were to be the recipients of soccer balls and school supplies if they were to come to the police station.
Within a matter of minutes, the area was teeming with children and teenagers who seemed to appear from out of nowhere, most of whom had been previously tending to crops in the orchards and gardens and abandoned their chores to make their way to the police station.
A forward thinking local farmer even opted to drive his tractor out into the community with a trailer to bring in children who lived further distances away.
Parents were seen carrying the little ones in their arms so that they could participate, and teenagers arrived in hopes of being a grateful recipient of a new soccer ball, to replace one which the entire community had been sharing for ten years.
Spc. Lisa Bradford and Spc. Mercedes Millward, members of the 141st MI Bn., Headquarters Company, also interacted with the children to keep them lined up and in good order while the Iraqi Police were still making preparations to let everyone into the compound.
Bradford said, “It made me feel grateful for the things that I do have and grew up having. I felt so much compassion for the kids and the few adults that were there.”
Millward said, “I hope that we inspired good relations with the people we interacted with.”
Other Soldiers who participated in the event reported that, “spirits were high and we were all were anxious to get on the mission. A lot of good will and friendship was established. We are looking forward to doing another one in the future.”
The Soldiers who participated all agreed that it was great to be able to interact with the Iraqi population and to share much needed supplies with people who typically survive on meager means.
A few members of HHC, 141st MI Bn. aided C Battery, 2-11th FA with additional security measures to ensure the success of the mission.
Spc. Corey Larsen and Spc. Daniel Linford, M249 Gunner, were placed on the roof of the police headquarters. They had a bird’s-eye view of the operation, while protecting their comrades from any person with bad intentions.
Larsen said, “That was an experience in itself, seeing children out of nowhere running in hoards to the Iraqi compound. I have never seen such beautiful happy children in my life.”
When it came time to disperse the supplies the children were lined up by age, small kids on one side, and teenagers on the other.
Small children were allowed in and then escorted out as members of the 141st and C Battery 2-11th humbly watched the children of Iraq demonstrate a sincere gratitude for the gifts bestowed on them by the police.
After the crowd dispersed, a few members of the 141st were invited to participate in a Key Leader Engagement with the Shehabi Police Chief and Furman.
Linford said, “I was impressed with their operation, they were well drilled.”
The chief of police expressed his gratitude for the aid that the Soldiers were able to afford his unit as a means of currying favor with the locals.
His demeanor, Soldiers said, reflected a genuine ardor for the efforts of U.S. Forces, and it was apparently the first time the chief and his men were able to be benefactors for the people in their stewardship.
The police force still has many hurdles in its future but it was clear to the Soldiers that members of the Shehabi Iraqi Police Department have set their sights toward accomplishing similar missions in the future.