By Sgt. Raymond Quintanilla, 305th MPAD, USD-S PAO
A special visit from the United States and Iraqi armies brought excitement to Iraqi children at one of Basra"'s primary schools as part of the Army"'s civic action development.
Maj. Kyle Upshaw, a native of Fort Lauderdale and the advisor to the Iraqi Army"'s 14th Division, assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, accompanied Iraqi Army Col. Mohammad Tahir, the civil military operations officer with the 14th IA Div., in delivering school supplies to the children of Al Fatih Al Mubien Primary School in Al Zharnar district, Basra.
"It"'s a new type of mission," Upshaw said. "The goal is to do the first two missions with the U.S. alongside the Iraqi army, with the third on their own."
Upshaw said backpacks filled with school supplies were donated by the IA in an effort to establish rapport between them and the community.
"Our intent is to partner the Iraqi army with their local schools," Upshaw said. "To place them in a good light, be a positive role model for the local children."
"We need to put a positive spin on the Iraqi army as a future profession," said 2nd Lt. Joseph Marshall, a native of Boyers, Pa. and Baker Co., 2nd platoon leader.
"More than anything," Upshaw said, "it"'s an opportunity for the children to see their military"'s ability to provide security for them, as well as some of their basic needs."
"These missions demonstrate the new Iraqi army"'s willingness and capabilities to assist them through food drops and school supplies," Marshall said. "It increases community support that will allow them to prosper in the future."
Marshall said by delivering the school supplies, the mission also emphasizes the importance of education.
"I believe the mission helps Iraqi children," Marshall said, "It illustrates the importance of an education and will be a huge piece of laying the foundation for a free Iraq that will last for generations to come."
As some children lined up for backpacks handed out by Tahir, Iraqi soldiers distributed additional school supplies amongst the children.
For the Iraqi army, although they have done similar missions in the same district such as food drops, Tahir said the school was chosen because of its special conditions, with many of the children coming from low income households.
"We selected this school in the same area to help the children here," Tahir said. "The school is very old and in need of repairs. Some students sit on the floor, because the lack of desks."
Teachers attempted to maintain classroom discipline, but the students were overcome by excitement.
Although the mission was spearheaded by the IA, one American Soldier could not help but share a special moment with the anxious children and their new school supplies as he went from room to room.
Al Fatih Al Mubien Primary School currently has approximately 650 students from 6-to-12 years of age.
"These civic act exhibits the coming generation of Iraq," Marshall said, "a positive memory of their new government and the U.S. forces, strengthening the future of our working relationship."