Since soccer is a popular game among Iraqi children, the inclusion of soccer balls in humanitarian missions is more than a gift; it is a symbol of goodwill between U.S. forces and Iraqi residents.

On a typical patrol, March 18, 2010, Soldiers from the 14th Brigade Border Transition Team carried out that subtle tradition, which in turn is being continued on by members of the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement, 14th Brigade.

While the tradition remains the same, the faces are changing as Iraqi border soldiers bolster their presence within the community.

"The mission today was going out to a local school, having the 14th Brigade soldiers and officers issue out school supplies, books, book bags, clothes, so the local people can see the good things the 14th Brigade is doing for the area," said Staff Sgt. Altierre Bell, of Montgomery, Ala., 14th Bde. BTT communications chief.

Bell and his fellow BTT Soldiers played a role by gathering the items to be handed out, but the soccer balls and backpacks were given to local students by Iraqi border guards.

"It allows the Iraqis to put a face on operations instead of the face being coalition forces," said Capt. Joe Grubb, operations and planning officer with the 14th Bde. BTT.

"It's important that the Iraqi populace feels comfortable with the Iraqi law enforcement, Department of Border Enforcement, Iraqi Police, and the Iraqi Army taking over all operations," said the Roanoke, Va. native.

The mission had many contributors who came together when the opportunity arose to distribute the surplus of supplies.

"Lt. Col. Bill Crouse, 1st Lt. Michael Porter, and 1st Sgt. Patrick Daley [of the 1314 Civil Affairs Company] had an abundance of [Humanitarian Aid] items that they needed to pass out to the local populace, so I saw it as a great opportunity to facilitate the 14th Brigade of the Department of Border Enforcement," Grubb said.

"It was a lot of moving pieces, but a lot of people chipped in and helped out," he added.
Iraqi leaders with the 14th Bde. also played a part in planning the mission. They determined the school where the donated supplies were to be distributed and coordinated the event with the headmaster.

The chosen school was located close to their headquarters and the Iraqi soldiers hope that by fostering a relationship of trust with the local community they might ultimately develop sources for information to better perform their mission, according to Grubb.

The 14th Bde. patrols the border between Iraq and Kuwait, stopping the flow of illegal goods going either direction.

"They're doing a great job," Grubb said, "They've had several recent arrests in the area - people posing as hunters - and they've also stopped some people going from Iraq into Kuwait to get funds for terrorist activities."

"We're pulling back and giving them more responsibility," he said, "Its being seen that they can step up and take over that responsibility."

Although very different from a tactical operation, the humanitarian mission was still a part of the transition between U.S. and Iraqi security forces and gave the Soldiers involved a sense of satisfaction.

"It makes me feel good seeing how the kid's faces light up," said Bell.

Grubb agreed.

"It shows great progress," he said, "It was a terrific feeling today. I got to see a lot of happy children - less fortunate children receiving items they may never have gotten before. It will definitely contribute to them getting a higher level of education."

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