NEWS | March 20, 2008

Village of Hope lives up to its name

By None , MNFI

HAWR RAJAB, Iraq (March 20, 2008) — Members of the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron, headquartered at Balad Air Base, Iraq, paid out nearly $10,000 to 120 students at the Red Horse Village of Hope March 13. 

The Village of Hope program is a test program that has many in the Department of Defense watching. Similar to a technical school, Iraqi students are taught rebuilding skills such as masonry, electrical and plumbing. Students are paid $10 per school day they attend. 

Reserve Command member Master Sgt. John Hudson, a Red Horse logistics technician, who previously worked in an accounting department in the civilian sector for 11 years, oversaw the payday.  Although the school’s technical curriculum hasn’t begun, students have started building a foundation of reading, writing and arithmetic skills, earning their first payday. Each student received about 125,000 Iraqi Dinars, or about $100 dollars, for the two weeks of studies. 

"This is happy and cool," said Hassan Alwan, the first person paid.  It was the largest payday he has had since the end of the war, he said.  Most of the students are residents of Hawr Rajab and when they graduate from the school they will receive an increase in pay and go to work rebuilding the local village that was decimated during the war. 

The 30 members of the 557th Red Horse unit are a combination of active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard members.  Sergeant Hudson said that the Red Horse team established much more credibility by following through with the payday. 

"A lot of the students had a wait-and-see attitude," he said. "They didn’t think they were going to actually get paid, so we gained a lot of trust."