Soldiers with the 25th Special Troops Battalion, 25th Infantry Division's Security Detachment distributed dozens of boxes of text books to several local "primary schools", near Tikrit, Iraq, April 20.
On this day, the Security Detachment's mission was to donate boxes of books to younger Iraqi children of both boys and girls schools within their area of operations.
The detachment typically visits the principals, teachers, and leaders of the local schools and area several times a week, according to 1st Lt. Hugo Flores-Diaz, a Woodbridge, Va. native and platoon leader, Security Detachment, 25th Special Troops Battalion, 25th Inf. Div.
"Usually we donate books to first grade through sixth grade schools, which are known as primary schools," said Hussain Alsoltani, an interpreter attached to the security detachment, who was raised in Iraq at an early age.
"When I was growing up in Iraq during primary school, I looked at teachers as secondary parents," said Alsoltani. "They taught values, as well as schooling."
For Alsoltani, who participates on many missions with the detachment during their visits to the local area schools, there are many similarities between the children of Iraq and the children of the U.S.
"A lot is the same," said Alsoltani. "Here you have cliques, bullies, children who excel in their studies. All kinds of children, just like anywhere else."
Flores-Diaz mirrored the same sentiment as Alsoltani, with regards to the similarities shared between the youth and education of both nations.
"In some of the schools, I see where I came from when I was growing up," said Flores-Diaz. "I try to make more of an effort to try to build a more professional relationship with them to get things done to improve the schools and area."
Comparing his youth in Iraq to the current state of Iraq, Alsoltani feels the importance placed on schooling in Iraq has faltered due to the recovering, yet still fragile state of Iraq during a time of reconstruction.
"I think a bit has changed since I was going to school here," Alsoltani said. "It was a priority for parents to send their kids to school; to teach them to read and write and send them all the way up to college."
"Nowadays, because of the war, because of the security issues, a lot of parents just rather have their kids stay at home," said Alsoltani.
"Without a strong school system, in the areas outside of the cities, a lot of kids drop out after grade six, because the desire to help the family with their farms can outweigh the benefits or practicality of further education."
Still, there remain many parents and townspeople who continue to contribute toward the education of the village's children by chipping in when the schools can't raise the funds.
"Sometimes the schools lack the funds to buy books, build bathrooms or classrooms or get desks," said Flores-Diaz. "Everything they have up to this point has been supplied by someone from the village, or other parents, to help improve the schools."
Despite some challenges, Alsoltani feels, with the help of the Iraqi people, the country of Iraq is on its way toward improving their children's education system.
"It will take time, the government is still establishing itself, but I think the education system is going back to how it was and maybe better," Alsoltani said.
"The community around does its best to bolster what the schools have," said Flores-Diaz. "We do our best to help out."
In addition to donating books to the local school, the detachment also helps out by donating school supplies and sporting goods for the children of primary and secondary schools. According to Flores-Diaz, these supplies are typically donated or purchased with Coalition funds.
Taking time out to help out the local community and to nurture the development of the young children of Iraq is a duty which the members of the Security Detachment see as a good investment.
"We try to help the kids that we know are the future of Iraq," said Alsoltani. "This is the generation that will build Iraq."

Page last updated Mon April 27th, 2009 at 12:00