By Nita R. Fulford, 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, Public AffairsNovember 20, 2008
CAMP MITTICA, IRAQ - In a country with a desperate need for engineers, two 402nd Army Field Support Brigade contractors are bridging an Oregon university with Iraqi students and faculty thirsty for knowledge.
Two hundred students and teachers from Dhi Qar University are the beneficiaries of new engineering textbooks from the Oregon State University College of Engineering delivered during a ceremony Nov. 11 that marks the beginning of an exchange program to enhance higher education.
Joshua Mater, president of the Michael Scott Mater Foundation and Jesus Quispe, vice president of MSMF presented Chancellor Ali Ismael Obeidi Al Snafi of Dhi Qar University with the books, totaling $20,000, as well as enough English-as-a-second-language materials (Headway Program) from the Book Wish Foundation and Oxford University Press. The Headway program is the most widely used tool in the world to teach English as a second language.
"Thanks to the support of Colonel Sullivan and Lieutenant Colonel Hart of the 402nd AFSB, we are one step closer to making this partnership a reality," Mater said. The brigade is part of the Army Sustainment Command's global logistics support network.
Sullivan requested an overall support of leadership. He approved the manpower to execute this mission and many members of the 2nd Battalion worked in various capacities to facilitate this project.
Mater is also the 402nd AFSB's operations officer and Quispe is RPAT (Redistribution Property Accountability Team) administrator for the bridgade's 2nd Battalion (Logistics). Both work for Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc.
The brigade is commanded by Col. Robert P. Sullivan. The brigade's 2nd Battalion is commanded by Lt. Col. Joe Hart.
MSMF is a non-profit organization committed to providing better education for poor students and communities throughout the world. Its objective is to help students and communities escape the bonds of poverty and hopelessness by providing education, life skills, equal rights, values and a caring environment by empowering them to help them move successfully into mainstream society, its Web site stated. It also has a project underway in Lima, Peru.
With this project, MSMF has been working with officials of both universities for the past eight months in developing a relationship that will benefit both institutions through cooperative learning. The primary initiatives are to develop an exchange program that will target engineering and English language majors at the master's degree level and develop professional training seminars targeting Iraqi city planners, engineers and public servants.
Mater, an OSU alumni and former Army captain who spent eight months helping rebuild Iraq, drew on his alma mater to continue his work.
"More than any other time in recent history, Iraq's destiny is of its own choosing. The youth of this country did not seek nor did they provoke strict limitations on what they are able to achieve; they did not expect nor did they invite a confrontation with fundamentalism, yet the true measure of a people's strength is how they rise to master those moments when they do arrive," Mater said. "This is a time for Iraqi heroes; they will do what is hard and achieve what is great. This is a time for Iraqi heroes and they reach for the stars."
His father, Michael Scott Mater, was president of Mater Engineering of Corvallis, Ore. He was a distinguished citizen at the forefront of community development and improvement projects who died of cancer in 2002.
The textbook exchange was a collaboration of multiple entities which highlights what can be achieved when agencies promote creativity. This project brings together OSU, Dhi Qar University, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. Department of State, the Book Wish Foundation, Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc., the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division (Fort Hood, Texas) Contingency Operations Base Adder and the leadership from the 402nd AFSB in Joint Base Balad
"This exchange program represents a new trend in partnering between American and Iraqi Universities," Ali, the chancellor, said.
Where traditional relationships normally rely on national government intervention, this program will bring the two university leaders together at Oregon State in early 2009 to discuss curriculum structuring and formalize an agreement that will enable students from Dhi Qar University to study at OSU.
Cultural Affairs Officer Helen LaFave and Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer Jinnie Lee from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad were present for the exchange and are facilitating the processing of Ali's visa for his travels to the United States.
In a letter written by President Ed Ray of OSU to Ali for the textbook exchange, Ray wrote: "We are bound together by centuries of commitments by those who came before us to a love of learning, an abiding search for truths and a sense of duty to find solutions for the problems of humanity."
It is the hope of the MSFM that those in a position to educate the youth of the world will follow the example of Ray and Ali, Mater said.
For more information on this project and partnership/donation opportunities with the Michael Scott Mater Foundation, visit www.michaelscottmaterfoundation.org .