Members of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment, of the Oregon National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, got a big morale boost Aug. 18 when they received care packages put together by last year's fourth graders from Albany Christian School in Albany, Ore.

B Company is based out of Corvallis, Ore., and is serving on a convoy-security and force-protection mission until the spring of 2010.

Some of these Soldiers visited the fourth-grade class at Albany Christian during the last school year. They gave gifts and answered students' questions before leaving for their deployment to Iraq.
The students decided to return the favor.
Stephanie Looney, a fourth-grade teacher at Albany Christian, arranged for her students to put care packages together for the Soldiers.

Funds were raised through a school auction, where Jeremy and Lydia Kudlo, of Albany, Ore., donated enough money to help make the project happen.

The Soldiers were full of praise for Looney, the Kudlos and the fourth-grade students as they opened their care packages, and their faces lit up when they saw the items inside.

Pfc. Sam Wagner, an Albany, Ore. native, was especially excited with the microwavable popcorn.

"I love popcorn and I haven't found a use for my microwave yet so I'm very thankful for this," said Wagner.

Staff Sgt. Brian Chytka, convoy commander and an Albany, Ore. native, said the gifts served as a connection to the world outside of Iraq.

"It is great that this could be arranged to give some of my younger Soldiers the opportunity to connect with the kids," said Chytka. "A lot of (Soldiers) who come over here are focused on the Army and they forget about everybody back home that is supporting us."

Pvt. Tyler Scholander, of Albany, Ore., said he was thrilled to get the care packages.
"This is great," he said. "It's definitely nice to know people back home care. This is the kind of stuff that gets us through the deployment, and we just want to say thank you."