Several Iraqi women reach for a bag of food handed out by Iraqi soldiers during a humanitarian assistance food drop and combined medical engagement in Sadr City May 24.
BAGHDAD (May 26, 2008) – The temperature on the street in front of the al-Faraqidh School in Jamilla was in the triple digits as hundreds of Sadr City residents turned out to receive free food packages and medical aid from the Iraqi army May 24.
The 42nd Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division, commandeered the abandoned school for the day to conduct a humanitarian aid food drop and a combined medical engagement for the people of the northeastern Baghdad neighborhood.
The event was the second largest of the 15 engagements the Iraqi army has conducted in Sadr City, said Maj. Brian North, team chief for the Multi-National Division – Baghdad military transition team for the Iraqi brigade. During the engagement, 500 bags of food, which consisted of grain, canned food, water and other non-perishables, were handed out to local residents and more than 500 Iraqis were treated by Iraqi Army doctors for various types and degrees of illness and injuries.
“It’s important for the Iraqi army to interact with the population to demonstrate a positive view of what the Iraqi army can do for them,” North said.
Through missions, such as the food drop and providing medical assistance, the Iraqi army gains an opportunity to gather valuable atmospherics from the people. It not only helps to bolster the Iraqi Army’s confidence but also reassures the population, North said, who added that the Iraqi Army took the lead in the engagement and MND-B Soldiers were on hand as a form of moral support.
“The IA is clearly in the lead at this point. We don’t do anything. The IA does the planning, coordination, preparation and loading,” North said.
Iraqi army Lt. Col. Majid A’assy Awany said he is confident that as the security situation in Sadr City improves, more missions like the IA food drop and medical assistance will bring a sense of normalcy to the area.
“The people of Sadr City want to help, but they are afraid,” said Awany, a civil affairs officer for the 42nd Bde, 11th IA Div. “In six months, Sadr City will be good.”
Awany had promising words for the rest of Iraq as well.
“In two years,” he said, “any Iraqi – anywhere in Iraq – will be able to sleep in the square and not be afraid.”