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Vanguard Soldiers find worthy causes in Al Anbar Province

By Matthew Burrell , 4th AAB, 3rd Inf. Div.

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Desks are lined up Jan. 5 in front of the Athathib School, during a humanitarian aid mission conducted by members of the Iraqi Security Forces and Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division – Center. U.S. Army photo by Matthew Burrell, 4th AAB, 3rd Inf. Div., USD-C.

MUHAMMADI, Iraq (Jan. 26, 2011) — Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division – Center facilitated the delivery of 80 desks to students of the Athathib School here Jan. 5.

The delivery was in conjunction with the Commanders’ Small Scale Projects fund during Operation New Dawn. The CSSP, a subset of the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program, offers more flexibility than its predecessor, which can take up to three weeks to be approved.

The humanitarian purchases must follow the same rules as CERP projects, but allow the battalion to react to civil vulnerabilities that could affect the overall security in the area. It provides timely and effective means of reaching out to the local populace.

While Company B, 3rd Bn., 7th Inf. Regt. provided the funding and logistical support for the Jan. 5 mission, the Iraqis provided everything else, including security at the school.

“The Iraqis have done a good job providing security at these sites,” said 1st Lt. Hertier Diakabam, a platoon leader with Company B.  “The humanitarian aid helps out the populace a lot.”

Diakabam said Company B facilitates about two CSSP humanitarian aid drops per month. Local schools and government centers that have been identified for need are the recipients of the aid. In most cases, the aid comes in the form of food provisions.

The last drop, to the Women’s Association of Hit in late December, highlighted the progress the Iraqi Security Forces have made when planning and executing humanitarian aid.  They delivered sewing machines to the Women’s Association, and residents of the city were allowed to come in and use the machines to repair blankets and clothes.

Staff Sgt. Stephen Couto, effects noncommissioned officer with Company B, 3rd Bn., 7th Inf. Regt. said he supports about 10-15 projects per month and, by now, the Iraqis have things well under control.

As the U.S. military presence draws down in Iraq, it is important that the Iraqis take a larger role in the execution of humanitarian aid missions like the CSSP.  So far, the Iraqis are doing exactly that.

Capt. Devin Hammond, commander of Company B, 3rd Bn., 7th Inf., Regt., whose first tour to Iraq was in 2005, said he has seen the kind of growth the Iraqis have undergone firsthand. Not so long ago, the roles were reversed.

“During my first tour, we provided security for the ISF on these (humanitarian aid) drops,” he said.  “Now, the ISF looks out for us.”