MUTHANNA PROVINCE, Iraq - Coalition Soldiers from the 167th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion conducted two civil military operation missions here April 13, bringing the joy of toys and school supplies to over 225 Iraqi children.

Adel Fadel, director of the Al Muthanna Provincial Reconstruction Team and operation supervisor, viewed the progress of two projects. The PRT is part of the U.S. State Department and works directly with the Government of Iraq, non-governmental organizations and Iraqi businessmen and citizens in order to assist Iraq in building a strong and stable future.

The first mission was to Samawah's Eternal Hope Orphanage, where over 150 children in grades one through five, without living parents, use the orphanage's facilities. Unlike orphanages in western cultures, the children do not live at the facility. Instead, here they are taken care of by extended family members. The orphanage is set up as a facility the children are educated and cared for during the day and given "fatherly" guidance.

Capt. Bruce S. Balvin, commander of Alpha Company, 56th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, oversaw the distribution of toys, clothes and other items brought to the orphanage.

"The children for the most part were quiet, shy, maybe a little scared of us. That was until the Soldiers left the room. After a few minutes you could hear them laughing and playing," he said.

Fadel said he was very pleased with the progress the orphanage is making and states that a class is added each year and soon there will be grades through high school. "They want to build a foundation with the children and then nurture them into their teen years," he said.

Upon successfully completing their first mission, Coalition Soldiers continued to their next location, the Al Doha Elementary School.

Settled amidst mud and straw buildings, approximately 85 children at the mud-walled school anxiously peered out of their classrooms as Fadel and the Soldiers brought them school supplies, toys and blankets.

With much excitement, the children sat back in their seats as the Soldiers came inside.

Despite their primitive conditions, the school boasted a soccer team. They were happy to receive their first-ever team shirts, courtesy of Fadel's PRT.

"The kids were very interested in trying to speak English and they truly wanted to interact with the Soldiers," said Lt. Col. Gavin Heater, battalion commander, 167th CSSB. "Despite the physical challenges to their education, they were willing to walk great distances to better themselves."

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