Safety Awareness raised at local Iraqi elementary school
March 31, 2009
DHI QAR PROVINCE, Iraq - Soldiers from the 287th Sustainment Brigade Civil Affairs Team and the 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment visited Al Nwares Elementary School in Dhi Qar province, March 11.
The purpose of the visit was to encourage children to stay clear of convoy routes while explaining the dangers of throwing rocks at Coalition force vehicles and the importance of reporting unexploded ordnance (UXO).
"They're just kids," said Lt. Col. Clint Moyer, "and I don't think they really understand the ramifications if one of the stones happens to hit someone."
Moyer, the 287th Sust. Bde. Civil Military Affairs Team chief, conceived the idea after a recent trip to Al Habib Elementary School in Muthanna province. While returning to Contingency Operating Base Adder, some children from a nearby middle school threw rocks at their vehicles. Moyer went into the school and talked with the principal and students about the dangers of rock-throwing.
From that experience and other incidents of rock throwing, Moyer implemented a safety education program in Dhi Qar and Muthanna provinces.
"Part of the problem was that at one time, troops were throwing food and water from convoys to the children," Moyer said. "They've discontinued that practice, but the children still expect it and are disappointed when they don't receive anything. My goal is to explain the policy that prohibits Soldiers (from) throwing out food and points out the possible outcome of their actions. Kids are kids - they don't always think things through."
To help implement the plan, Moyer relied on the professional assistance of 1st Lt.
Travis Nelson and Cpt. Harris Russell, both with the 3rd Bn., 133rd FA Regt. and
police officers in Texas.
"Part of my job in Texas is to talk to children about safety and drug use," Russell said. "This is a different scenario, but the same concept. I want these kids to be safe and our troops to remain safe too."
This experience reflected in Russell's easy manner with the students, who listened politely to him. While visiting four classrooms in the school, he explained the dangers associated with UXOs, rock throwing and trying to collect food from passing vehicles.
In addition to the Safety First program, Moyer and his Soldiers took this opportunity to reach out to the staff and students at the school. Nelson's mother, a teacher in the states, donated some school supplies, coloring books, crayons and candy to the excited and happy students. Nelson said the supplies were donated from "one teacher to another."
Moyer hopes their new friendship will continue. "There is every indication that this will be a good working relationship that will benefit the school, and most importantly, the safety and education of the children," Moyer said.
Al Nwares has not been visited by Coalition forces, aside from a 2003 visit from the Italian Army to help repair their courtyard.
Photos and story by Sgt. Heather Wright, 287th Sustainment Brigade public affairs. For queries, contact 3d Sustainment Command Public Affairs at: ESCPAO@iraq.centcom.mil. For high-resolution photos and stories by the 3d Sustainment Command, please contact the Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System by calling (678) 421-6612 or access them online at http://www.dvidshub.net/units/3sce.