CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - On March 3, two Sustainment Soldiers visited Al Habib School in Muthanna Province as readers with "Read Iraq," the 287th Sustainment Brigade Civil Affairs program.

"Read Iraq" places volunteer Soldiers, assisted by interpreters, in Iraqi school rooms to read children's stories. The students, who are learning English as a second language, learn about western culture in return.

Reading that day were 287th Sust. Bde. Special Troops Battalion Assistant Operations Noncommissioned Officer Staff Sgt. Lance Jones and 287th Sust. Bde. Support Operations Maintenance Branch Manager Sgt. 1st Class Jason Oesterreich.

Jones, of Manhattan, Kan., is employed as a management analyst for the Advanced Turbine Engine Army Maintenance facility at Fort Riley, Kan. A bachelor, he felt that his experience coaching flag football for the City of Manhattan prepared him well for this latest mission.

Jones read several storybooks to a class of fourth-graders. The most popular one, he said, was "There Is a Monster at the End of This Story." As he neared the end of the story, he told the kids that he was becoming too scared to turn the pages. The kids shouted back at him to continue - they wanted to see the monster.

His last book, "My First Counting Book," used animals to help children count to ten in English.

"The children I was working with were just learning English so I would hold up my fingers to show the number we were on," Jones said. "The children would shout out in Arabic the number I was on. At the end of the book we had a review and counted to ten in English."

According to Jones, the best part of his Al Habib School experience was that it allowed him to feel that he had made a direct impact on the life of a child.

"We are in a war against terrorism to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people," Jones said. "I can't think of a better way to do that than to help build up the schools," he said.

Oesterreich resides in Topeka, Kan., with his wife and three sons. In civilian life he works as an overhead door technician and volunteers time at his son's school. He has also read several storybooks to a class of 11-year-olds, including "Where the Wild Things Are," by Maurice Sendak, which he said is a Family favorite.

"It reminded me of reading to my boys, which I do every night before bedtime," Oesterreich said. "The kids laughed and smiled at all the stories and the way I presented them. It felt great to make them happy," he said.

Later that evening, Oesterreich sent pictures of his classroom experience back home to share with his children. He thought it was "pretty cool" to hear his son Evan's reaction.

"He's a first grader," Oesterreich said. "He couldn't believe that they didn't have computers in the classroom. I think it's important for our children to see what the conditions are like in different countries so that they can better appreciate the opportunities they have at home."

The 287th Sustainment Brigade is an Army National Guard unit from Wichita, Kan.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16