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NEWS | April 10, 2008

American kids donate school supplies to Iraq

By U.S. Army Margaret Nelson Staff Sgt., 115th MPAD

1st Lt. Brandon Cheney, 1st Platoon Leader, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry hands out school supplies donated by Operation Education and facilitated by the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division's family readiness group to children at a school in Hawijah, Iraq, April 3. (Photo/Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson)
1st Lt. Brandon Cheney hands out school supplies donated by Operation Education to children at a school in Hawijah, Iraq, April 3. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson)

HAWIJAH, Iraq (April 9, 2008) — In an effort to assist children of the Kirkuk province, friends, family, and an elementary school in West Lafayette, Ind., donated school supplies to 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, to distribute to students of a primary school in Hawijah, Iraq, April 3.

Facilitated by the brigade’s family readiness group in Ft. Drum, N.Y., Operation Education is an off-shoot of the actor Gary Senise’s non-profit program Operation Iraqi Children, developed in 2005, he formed after he visited 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain during their last Iraq deployment.

Under Operation Education, participating members and schools donate supplies such as pens and paper on a continuous basis through various methods. The donations are shipped to Kirkuk, Iraq, for distribution to the forward operating bases in the "Warrior Brigade’s" area of operations.

10th Mtn. Soldiers then distribute the supplies to local schools. “Operation Education is an on-going project until 1-10th returns home,” Miri MacNeilly, an Operation Education organizer said. MacNeilly’s husband is Maj. Matthew MacNeilly who is serving as the brigade’s plans officer at FOB Warrior in Kirkuk.

On this occasion, the donations went to a primary school here, located approximately 60 miles southwest of Kirkuk. It was once considered a contentious area in the province.

As overall security efforts increase, due in large part to reconciliation efforts here, events such as this are becoming possible and crucial to the city’s rebuilding efforts, according to the Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment who distributed the supplies to the boys and girls.

“Interacting with Iraq’s children with this type of support is the most effective way of showing them that coalition forces are committed to their country’s security and its future,” Capt. Quinn Eddy, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Regiment, 1-10th Mtn. Div., said.

Extremists have targeted this neighborhood and school in recent months with improvised explosive devices in an effort to intimidate its populace as residents here are flocking in record numbers to join the Sons of Iraq movement, according to Eddy.

He said that the violent methods utilized by the extremists are back-firing.

“Injuring and killing innocent children and (the city’s) citizens just strengthens the resolve of the people of Hawijah to rid their city of these terrorists,” he said. “They want a peaceful place to live and security for their families.”

The excitement of the children was evident as they crowded around the Soldiers distributing the supplies.

“We appreciate the support provided from everybody back home for the children of Hawijah. The smiles on these boys’ and girls’ faces speak volumes,” Eddy said. “Operation Education and the FRG are helping us create a bond with Hawijah’s future and at the same time, the supplies they donated will broaden the students’ educational opportunities with necessary tools, and most importantly – their outlook.”