CAMP TAJI, Iraq - During the holiday season many people choose to celebrate with the people that matter most to them, it is the same for Soldiers deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

American leaders from the1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and the Camp Taji based Baghdad embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team-North, invited Iraqi civil and military leaders from the Taji area to attend a holiday dessert social, here, on Camp Taji, Dec. 15.

"The local leaders have been more than hospitable toward us when it comes to celebrating and honoring their cultural traditions," said Capt. Matthew Hopper, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment. "We wanted to return the favor to them during our holiday season."

The group of guests was as diverse as the dessert menu. Local military officers were rubbing elbows with local sheiks, businessmen and council leaders, while enjoying chai, an array of fresh fruit, as well as assorted cakes and cookies.

"It's not often that we can get the leaders from the New Taji Nahia Council, Qada Council, Iraqi Army, and Iraqi Police into the same room," added Hopper, from Little Rock, Ark. "Offering the local leaders an opportunity to meet their counterparts should help forge working relationships that could benefit the people of Taji."

"Sweetening the deal with ice cream and cake doesn't hurt either," joked Whitewater, Wisc. native, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Lien.

"[Local leaders] were generous enough to invite us into their homes during their holiday festivities," added Lien. "We thought it would only be fitting to invite the local leaders of Taji into our home to celebrate with us during our holiday season."
As the battalion prepares to redeploy after their year-long rotation, they want to capitalize on every opportunity to strengthen the relationships among local leaders, added Lien.

"With the help of the local leadership we have brought a lot of progress to Taji," added Lien. "Without the people in this room, the schools we've built, the roads and bridges we've mended, and the growth of Taji would have never come to fruition."

The gathering was a gesture of the American leaders' appreciation for the hard work the Taji leaders put in for the future of Taji.

"I thank you all for your dedication to the people of Taji and the future of Iraq," said Lt. Col. Eric Schwegler, a native of Ozark, Ala. "As [American forces] celebrate the holiday season it's nice to be able to come together and share quality time with the people that matter most to us."

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