By 3d Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public AffairsMay 27, 2009
DHI QAR PROVINCE, Iraq - Soldiers from Alpha Company, 56th Brigade Special Troops Battalion from Irving, Texas, filled a lot of empty rooms - and many Iraqi hearts - when they delivered 25 tables, 50 benches and five bookcases to the Hand of Mercy Orphanage here April 28.
The orphanage, located in the city of Al Batha, is a daycare facility for orphans and widows. The organization recently moved to an old three-story building which was barren of any furniture for their classrooms.
Maj. Dale Coparanis, 167th CSSB civil military operations chief and a native of Londonderry, N.H., had worked with the orphanage at their old site and was asked for assistance in furniture for their new location, mentioning the children and widows were sitting on floors.
"Alpha Company, 56th Brigade Special Troop Battalion, was basically an engineering company before this deployment. They have carpentry skills which I thought would be perfect for solving the furniture problem. I pitched the idea of them building desks and benches for the kids. I'm proud to say they took on the project in a big way," said Coparanis.
Sgt. Chris Ravella, an Co. A, 56th BSTB assistant convoy commander who resides in Desoto, Texas and the project supervisor said, "Over 20 soldiers from the 56th BSTB and 636th Brigade Support Battalion worked almost two weeks on the project, using excess wood from closed forward operating bases to build and paint the furniture"
"We actually built more than what the orphanage needed - 30 tables, 60 chairs and six bookcases. That gives us some extra furniture, I hope, which we can give to schools we visit on future CMO missions," he said.
Despite their contribution to building the furniture, both Coparanis and Ravella said the Soldier who deserves the credit for the project's success is Cpl. Andrew J. Ramer, and Co. A, 56th BSTB assistant commander from Bonham, Texas. Ramer not only was the foreman of the project, but the furniture designer. He lend a hand in crafting each piece from beginning to end and inspected each item to make sure it met standards.
"Hopefully, this furniture is something that the kids can remember that we did for them. While they're growing up that memory might make a difference somewhere along the way. Personally, it's a nice feeling to just do something good for kids," said Ramer.
The orphanage was empty when Coparanis and the Soldiers of Alpha Company pulled their flatbed truck up to the building's front door. The school was closed for the furniture delivery and to ensure the stairwell were kept clear for the Soldiers carrying the desks and tables.
After all the rooms were filled, Al Batha District Councilman Mohammed Tayieh offered his gratitude to each Soldier who had worked on building and delivering the orphanage furniture.