By Capt. Maggie White, 56th SBCT, 28th Inf. Div., MND-BJuly 31, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Over 2,000 children from the Tarmiyah area received soccer balls and school supplies, July 29, thanks to a combined effort between the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (Independence), Iraqi Security Forces, and the Ministry of Education.
The Future Hero project is a joint effort between Soldiers from the Independence Brigade and their Iraqi Security Force counterparts. In the past they have done many school drops under the Junior Hero program, but the Future Hero program took things to the next level by involving Iraqi officials and recognizing academic achievements of the students.
"We have done about 15 Junior Hero projects throughout the Tarmiyah qada, but this one is the largest," Sgt. Brian Choe, of Tustin, Calif., said. "We asked to bring in the Ministry of Education and the council members and are presenting the top students from 15 schools with a certificate of achievement today."
Choe has been based out of Tarmiyah since last October and wanted to give back to the small town north of Camp Taji that he had been working in. He got the idea for Operation Future Hero after holding about fifteen Junior Hero school drops in the past 10 months. According to Choe, Operation Future Hero creates community involvement rather than just handing out gifts.
"Sgt. Choe ensured coordination between the ISF, Tarmiyah leadership, and the Ministry of Education," Sgt. 1st Class Brian Boos, of Philadephia, 56th SBCT information operations NCO said. "It's good to see the ISF come together to help support their qada leadership and make this event possible".
Children lined up for two hours with their classmates prior to receiving their gifts. The boys received soccer balls and the girls received backpacks with school supplies in them. Officials from the Tarmiyah school system and the Ministry of Education were on hand to present achievement certificates to students in a ceremony prior to giving out the gifts.
"This is the first time we've done a ceremony especially for the students. It's a good experience for us," Habib Taba al-Fadan, Chairman of the Tarmiyah Teacher's Association and principal of al-Hatab school said. "This is a cooperative effort where everyone can see that the Coalition forces working with us to help improve Iraqi society, especially in taking care of kids. These kids are the future of Iraq."
Iraqi Army Soldiers and Iraqi policemen inflated soccer balls and distributed the backpacks to over 2,000 spirited children. Choe said that he made sure his Soldiers took a backseat in the actual distribution process.
"We want to make sure the children see that the IA and IP are handing out the toys, not us," Choe said. "They see that they can rely on them to help in their community".
Children smiled as they received the gifts and immediately started to kick the soccer balls around and wear the new backpacks. They didn't seem to mind the triple digit heat as they ran in huge packs around the courtyard of the Huda Girls School testing out their new toys.
"The joys of simple gifts and presents are evident today," al-Farda said. "It is all worth the effort to see the smile of a child"