IP, Pa. Guardsmen provide help in Taji
May 18, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Iraqi National Police, working with Pennsylvania National Guardsmen, distributed over five truckloads worth of food and household supplies to needy women in the Taji area, north of Baghdad, May 16.
Women lined up with their children to receive food donated by the United Nations; made available to them at the Taji Council building. Many of them said they had lost husbands in the war and have been struggling to provide for their young children.
56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers discovered the food in a warehouse on Camp Taji when the unit took over operations last February. Civil affairs Soldiers and members of embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team- 5, based out of Camp Taji, worked with the National Police to make the food available to distribute to needy women and children.
"This is UN relief food to give to the needy, such as the handicapped, widowed, orphaned," said Maj. James Fluck, civil affairs officer for the 56th SBCT.
Iraqi women patiently lined up for several hours in order to receive their share of food and goods, which included rice, lentils, diapers, canned goods, and household cleaning supplies. Forty-five families received food, with enough left over for another fifty.
Sosun al-Ergaz, president of Services for Women and Children of the Taji area , inspected all of the food before distributing it to ensure that everything was in good condition. She gently called the women forward and took down their names as they piled everything into large sacks to carry home.
"I feel good about this, to help a lady whose husband has died get food for her family," al-Ergaz said. "Islam teaches us to help others, and it was the way I was brought up."
Iraqi National Police worked with Taji officials to help coordinate the distribution at the city center. Capt. Maria Claus, a 56th SBCT Soldier who works with the Iraq Security Forces, said this operation set a good precedent for the people of Taji.
"The NP did a great job of working with the local nationals to get this food to the people who need it." Claus said, "The people here see that they are working hard to take care of the Qada (area) and the people of Iraq".
Maj. Fluck hopes that this project will be the first of many that help the citizens of Taji. He stressed that the role of the civil affairs Soldiers and ePRT member is to help mentor the Iraqi officials to operate independent of coalition forces.
"We want to help the National Police with civil affairs and humanitarian aid training; it's a good partnership between us and them" Fluck said.