BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Nov. 17, 2011) -- As the ramp to an armored vehicle lowered, a U.S. Army Soldier grabbed two plastic containers and handed them to a comrade. She then walked into a crowd of school-aged children who jostled around anxiously in expectation.

Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 40th Engineer Battalion, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team patrolled to three schools and distributed roughly 100 pounds of scholastic and hygienic supplies here Nov. 15.

Soldiers with "Havoc" Company frequent the Prozah, Usted Gulahn Mohammed Shahid and Nahr-e-Shahi schools. The students range from 7 to 19 years old. Soldiers visit the schools to either check renovation projects or provide students with much needed educational supplies.

The goodies included pens, pencils, colored folders, toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes. All the supplies were donated by nonprofit organizations, including The Matthew Freeman Project.

Before handing out the aid to students, Capt. Jessica Catob, executive officer with HHC, 40th Engineer Battalion, recounted the story of U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Freeman.

"This Marine saw that the students of Afghanistan really wanted pens, pencils and other school materials for their schooling so he told his mom about it," Catob said.

Freeman was killed in Afghanistan, and in his honor his mother started the organization that bears his name. According to its website, the foundation aims to provide school supplies for students in Afghanistan, Iraq and "other war-torn countries."

"We don't have enough money for pens, pencils or stationary supplies, by you making this trip here is making a good relationship with us," said Mohammed Arif, a teacher from the Nahr-e-Shari school.

Soldiers walked away from each school to many thumbs-up from students who never ceased grinning ear-to-ear.

Page last updated Thu November 17th, 2011 at 00:00