Texas Soldiers bring soccer, unity to Iraqi village
1st Lt. Jim Cabrera, with 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, hands a soccer ball to a local teenager in Wanah, Iraq, after opening a soccer field in the village, Oct. 29. Soccer balls and equipment were donated by family and friends of of the Soldiers assigned to the unit.

MOSUL, Iraq (Army News Service, Nov. 9, 2009) -- U.S. forces, Iraqi Security Forces and key political leaders of Wanah, a village in northern Iraq, gathered to celebrate the opening of a soccer field and watch the first match played there, Oct. 29.

For the Fort Hood-based Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, who helped make it happen, and the Wanah community, the soccer field meant more than just a place to play the game.

Capt. John Bradley, Battery A commander, and his Soldiers were responsible for the main coordination and planning efforts that led to the construction of the soccer field.

"Through the help of the Muhktar and [political] leaders of Wanah, the U.S. forces coordinated and funded the project in order to help the people of Wanah," said Bradley.

The grand opening ceremony began with a short speech by Mohammed Abdullah, the local leader of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. In his speech, Abdullah spoke both Arabic and Kurdish, stating that, "one soccer field for all the people of Wanah is like one Iraq for all Iraqis".

After the opening remarks, Col. Gary Volesky, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team commander, joined the key leaders and Iraqi Security Forces that were on hand to cut the ribbon signifying the official opening of the soccer field.

After the celebration, a game of soccer started between a Wanah soccer team and a team from the Mosul Dam. Following the soccer scrimmage, the Soldiers distributed more than 30 soccer balls, bags and shin guards that had been donated by Bradley's friends and family in Texas.

"My family and friends in America wanted to show their support for our mission here and help show the Iraqi people we are here to work for one Iraq," Bradley said.

The ceremony and the fun that followed equated into a great event, said Volesky. "Abdullah gave a great speech that focused on how both Arabs and Kurds should work together for the country of Iraq and not for the benefit of individuals or groups" he said.

According to Volesky, projects such as the soccer field show Iraqi communities that U.S. forces can help improve the quality of life for the people and support community needs within those areas.

"These types of projects give the youth of the community an activity to participate in that builds upon the principles of cooperation -- being part of a team and working towards a common goal," Volesky said. "These are principles that will be a great foundation on which to build the future of Iraq."

(Sgt. Christopher Kozloski writes for the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division public affairs)

Page last updated Mon November 9th, 2009 at 14:20