By Maj. Jeff Parker, 8th MP Bde. PAO, MND-BMarch 8, 2009
BAGHDAD - More than 500 students at Al Tadhia Primary School watched as boxes of donated school supplies were distributed at their school Feb. 25, by local Iraqi Police and Soldiers from the 340th Military Police Company, Task Force 91 MP, 8th Military Police "Watchdog" Brigade, Multi-National Division-Baghdad.
The IPs distributed basic school supplies, clothing and sporting equipment to the students to further develop the positive relationships between the IPs and their New Baghdad muhalla, or neighborhood.
"It's something we've always talked about, wanting to do something for the kids in the area that we patrol," said Sgt. Peter Farley, 340th MP Co. Police Transition Team member, and fourth-grade teacher at Hancock Elementary School, in Brockton, Mass.
The collaborative effort among IPs and Soldiers from the 2nd platoon, 340th MP Co., had its roots state side from a program called 'Take a Vet to School Day.'
Farley, a native of Middleboro, Mass. Who took part in the event, asked U.S. school children to focus on the needs of the Iraqi kids instead of himself. With a common desire among other 340th MPs to give, Farley said, "I told them to focus more on donating things to the Iraqi children; notebooks, paper, pens, and crayons."
Through the help of his wife, also an elementary school teacher in the Boston area, along with family and friends of other Soldiers from the 340th MP Co., several boxes of donated supplies began arriving.
"The collection of donated goods was the easy part. [The] hardest thing about the whole operation was to afford mailing the boxes," said Sgt. 1st. Class Sidney Glanz, the platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, 340th MP Co., and native of Beacon Falls, Conn.
After receiving more than 50 boxes of donations, coordination and school selection was made by Iraqi Police Lt. Col. Jawad Zubeidi, commander, New Baghdad Patrol Station.
The event, dubbed "Operation Iraq Tomorrow" by Farley, began with the IPs and MPs meeting at the New Baghdad Patrol Station. Large boxes of supplies, often splitting on the sides from their travels, were transferred by the IP and MPs onto IP vehicles. Many of the 500 plus students were found sitting along raised walkways within the school's courtyard. Remaining students were in their class room.
"This is known to be one of the poorest schools in the area. The New Baghdad city councilmen were very thankful that the Al Tadhia Primary School was chosen," said Zubeidi.
The children were frequently heard thanking the IPs in for the supplies they received.
"They were most appreciative of the simple things we often take for granted back home, like a simple pack of pencils, or notebook," Farley said. "The smiles on their faces showed it all."
Highlighting the positive changes he had noticed since the beginning of his current deployment, Glanz continued, "When we first got here, the majority of the streets were barren. There were about half as many people as we saw today. People are definitely more comfortable with the IPs, comfortable in their homes now, comfortable on the streets, and that wasn't so when we first got here."
When the 340th MP Co. first arrived to the area, Glanz said it was a common occurrence for the IP station or local citizens to be attacked at least once a week.
"Now, it's a rarity. The IPs and the people are making it happen," said Glanz.
"Today was definitely a team building experience as well as showing the people that we are working together to help them," said Farley, "The teachers, the faculty, the IPs, everybody worked together and today was just a great positive experience for all involved including us and the Iraqi Police."
"Hopefully we've made a positive impact, too. I feel pretty confident that we did," Farley said.