By 13th Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public AffairsNovember 26, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Roughly 100 Iraqi children participated in Iraqi Kids Day Nov. 21 at the H6 recreation center at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
The focus of the event was on personal hygiene issues, such as frequent hand washing and brushing teeth after meals. The children were treated to a magic show, a puppet show on personal hygiene and time with mentors to play games indoors and outdoors.
Capt. Elizabeth A. Hoettels, a civil military affairs officer with the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group, said she planned the health-based program using available resources and volunteers.
"The planning started about a month ago," she said. "The last two weeks have been very busy and we were working hard every day to make this a success."
Hoettels, a Wauwatosa, Wis., native, said the purpose of the event was to provide community public health and education for the children.
"This is something they can do every single day to improve their health and have fun at the same time," she said.
Hoettels said prevention is the key.
"If we can teach them something as simple as washing their hands every time, we can possibly prevent them from spreading diseases," she said. "Simple things like that they can do at home and then go back and show their friends. Kids like to show their friends new things they learn."
Sgt. Matthew Carpenter, a chaplain assistant with the 90th Sustainment Brigade, said if the class can get five to 10 kids out of 100 to learn about hygiene-related behavior it is a success, because they can teach others.
Carpenter, a Portales, N.M., native, said this is his second time as a mentor here, and he plans to attend all such events in the future.
"I love spending time with the children," he said. "This is my second time with the same child and he remembered me from last time. Zakaria didn't have a mentor and I asked if I could mentor him again."
Through an interpreter, Zakaria said Carpenter is "a really nice guy, he is helpful and is always happy."
First Lt. Troy Novak, the executive officer for the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group, said this is a great way to create relationships between service members and the local community.
"Events like these let the local communities around us see why we are here and what we are doing here," said Novak.
He said the event puts a face to people on both sides of the fence as service members and local nationals interact with one another.
"These events make our troops happy and make them feel like they are part of the overall mission, especially the ones that never see the outside of this base," said Novak
Future kid's day events are already being planned.
Hoettels said this was the first time girls could come to the base with chaperones and midwifes.
"There were 40 girls here today and it was absolutely thrilling that they have come to participate," she said.
Novak, an East Grand Forks, Minn., native, said a kid's day exclusively for females is scheduled Dec. 12 and another kid's day is scheduled during the holidays.
"Hopefully, these kids will look back and say they remembered when the Americans were here and I shook their hands and played games with them," he said. "I'd like to think that they will remember that instance and that it was a positive experience for them."