Soldiers hit home run with partnership
May 9, 2009
BAGHDAD - Some of the Iraqi youths in northwest Baghdad's Karkh district set aside their soccer balls and experienced "America's Pastime" May 7.
Soldiers serving with the 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion out of Syracuse, N.Y. brought enough baseball equipment for three recreation locations in the Karkh district.
About four months ago, when the 403rd's Soldiers joined up with civil military affairs leaders serving with the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad to meet with the Karkh Ministry of Sports and Youth, ideas of different sports in Baghdad came to the table of discussion.
"In one of the early engagements, they said they liked sports of all types; soccer, basketball, volleyball, and one that was mentioned, which surprised us, was baseball," said 1st Lt. Conner Browne, a native of N.J., assistant civil military affairs officer, 2nd HBCT. "There are a lot of people in the states that love baseball and would be willing to donate some stuff, so that's what we did."
The group contacted "Pitch In for Baseball," an organization out of Philadelphia, which is dedicated to donating baseball equipment to youth around the world.
The organization donated running bases, more than a hundred gloves and balls, and more than 60 helmets and bats.
When the equipment was collected, all it took was the will to ship it to Baghdad.
Members of the battalion stationed in the U.S. delivered the equipment from Philadelphia to the unit's Family Readiness Group in Syracuse, N.Y, who packaged the goods for proper shipping.
"The shipment was paid for by the Central Square Lions Club, located in central N.Y.," said Maj. Dennis Greco, a native Syracuse, N.Y., 403rd Civil Affairs Bn. "The Family Readiness Group coordinated the sponsorship, and the Lions said they would cover the whole deal. It turned out to be about $500."
When the equipment arrived in country, all it took was a visit to the Karkh Ministry of Youth and Sports.
"We busted out some of the equipment and we got the youth to throw a couple of balls back and forth," said Staff Sgt. Dane Halligan, a native of Sauquoit, N.Y., 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion. "It went from us showing them how to do it and they started taking it up on their own."
Halligan said the new baseball players enjoyed the concept and after a little more practice, will invite the Soldiers back to see a few exhibition games.
"This just reinforces the foundation of that relationship, especially with the young people," said Greco. "As they get older and they see what's going on across the world with the United States, they'll always remember the day a U.S. Soldiers came in and dropped off the equipment."
As Coalition Forces continue to partner with Iraq's local governments, Karkh's youth are able to step up to the plate in a safer environment.
"I think this was a great idea," said Greco. "What better way to get the two countries together than by using baseball'"