TAJI, Iraq - In an effort to strengthen a sense of normalcy for the children in their area of operations, U.S. and Iraqi troops partnered together to distribute schools supplies and to assess local security.

On Nov. 11, U.S. Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, utilized the "Operation Back to School" program, Nov. 11, to visit the al-Abbas School, here, with their Iraqi counterparts.

"At first, when we offered the idea of visiting the school to provide assistance, the headmaster was skeptical," said Spc. Sesily Aponte, 1479 Civil Affairs Company. "He said he'd received promises from [U.S. Soldiers] in the past, but no aid ever came."

Al-Abbas School is a self sustaining school and has never received assistance from U.S. or Iraqi forces before the Nov. 11 visit.

"Delta Company proposed they use 'Operation Back to School' to help the school because it would benefit from the program more than any other area school," added Aponte, a native of Camden, N.J. "The school has very humble facilities but still manages to adequately educate hundreds of kids."

Students, in small classrooms, sit three to a desk offering their attention to their instructors, unfazed by the commotion of Soldiers hurriedly stacking boxes full of school supplies yards away.

"The children were very happy to receive the supplies," said Aponte. "They did seem more focused on their school work though, which is great."

"The kids here aren't used to the same luxuries as we are in the states," explained1st Lt. Carl Runner, a native of Diboll, Texas. "For us to bring the stuff that matters means a lot to them."

"Bringing a pen and paper, making sure they are safe and healthy is more than enough for the kids of al-Abbas," added Runner.

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