Soldiers bring laughter, education to local Iraqi schools
April 12, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - The 287th Sustainment Brigade Civil Military Operations team, along with Col. Robert Schmitt, commander of the 287th Sust. Bde., visited Al Soonobar School in Dhi Qar Province March 26.
The team read to the school children to foster good will and handed out school supplies.
Sgt. 1st Class Chris Baker, 287th Sust. Bde. postal supervisor, and Capt. Traci Earls, the 287th Sust. Bde. support operations plans officer in charge, were two team members who volunteered to read to the students of Al Soonobar.
Baker, a United States Postal Service letter carrier in Quincy, Mass., volunteered to help the Iraqi children and is considering a change of careers when he returns to the States.
"I'm inclined to go into teaching upon redeployment," Baker said. "It seems like it would be a fulfilling career. I am in the process of finishing my BA (bachelor's of arts degree) while deployed to allow me to pursue my teaching ambitions."
With light shining through the small unframed window of the hardened mud and clay classroom, Baker read several stories to the 30-plus eight to ten-year-old children.
Knowing that kids enjoy and need physical activity, Baker took the children outside in the school's small courtyard. Baker and Lt. Col. Clint Moyer, CMO chief showed the children how to play baseball and invited the children to practice swinging a bat. The children all enjoyed the activity, particularly when the ball flew into the teacher's lounge.
Earls feels she made a difference by showing the importance of volunteering.
"Volunteering for the school mission makes it personal," Earls said. "You get to see the kids' faces and interact with them. You get to put a face to Iraq. The kids see that we are good people and are here to help. This is the second time I have been to the school, and these two missions will be the highlight of my deployment."
With the generosity of Earls Family and friends back home, the CMO team brought activity books and flashcards for the children.
"They remembered me from last time which was pretty cool," Earls said. "They were eager to read to me and you could tell they were very proud of themselves."
Like Earls, Baker had fun and felt the mission was rewarding.
"The 'Read Iraq' program is a well-conceived mission put forward by the 287th CMO," Baker said. "Lt. Col Moyer and his co-workers display the commitment and energy to bring forth positive interaction with the Iraqi citizens and their precious youth."