By Spc. Jared Eastman, 1st AAB, 3rd Inf. Div., USD-CAugust 24, 2010
BAGHDAD-For the Soldiers of 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division - Center, Operation New Dawn will mean business as usual, with only a few changes. One routine mission the Soldiers have executed since landing in Iraq in January is humanitarian aid drops.
On Aug. 10, Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st AAB along with Soldiers from 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st AAB, handed out food, supplies and toys donated by First Baptist Church in Richmond Hill, Ga., located near Fort Stewart, Ga., home to part of the 3rd Inf. Div.
"What an awesome day," said Col. Roger Cloutier, commander of 1st AAB, "You hear about a lot of negative things in Iraq, but no one ever reports about the smile on a young kid's face as they get a stuffed animal all the way from Richmond Hill, Ga. For me and my Soldiers over here, that is a phenomenal day; you go out, you're able to help people, you're able to show that folks back in the United States care about them, and you're able to spread a little bit of joy."
The humanitarian aid drop took place outside of Contingency Operating Station Falcon, near Baghdad.
"It was a great feeling to know that the folks you know from your church care enough to take the time and effort to get all this stuff together to ship it all the way over here for people in need," said Warrant Officer Scott Hinson, an intelligence fusion officer who participated in the drop. "These guys don't have a whole lot, so I know it meant a lot to them."
Although it took several weeks for the toys to be collected and shipped, the mission was planned in under a week by Capt. Jacob Cross, commander of HHC, 1st AAB.
"My job was organizing all the enablers, planning and preparation for the execution of the drop," he said, "I did the initial coordination with the tactical, logistics, and civil affairs teams and brought all those people together so we could meet the commander's intent."
Cross said although planning HA drops is not a routine responsibility for an HHC commander, he took it in stride.
"It's not something that I get to do very often," he said, "I am still new as an HHC commander, but it is something I did as a line commander quite often. I wouldn't say there is a most difficult aspect (to planning a mission like this), but the most time consuming thing was coordinating across the company. Most companies can focus all of their assets on a mission while HHC has a lot of different competing priorities at one time."
But for the Soldiers of 1st AAB, the long nights of planning coupled with waking up early to prepare all the equipment and cargo for their trip is worth it.
"The kids have no shoes on their feet," Cloutier said, "They have one small article of clothing and then they get these stuffed animals and these toys from the United States, so the parents are very happy. We also give the families seven days worth of food to carry them through the week. It really makes you feel good, not only as a Soldier, but as an American, that you can help these people."
Even though the brigade will focus on advising, assisting and training Iraqi Security Forces during Operation New Dawn, supporting the USD-C area of operations in and around Bagdad, the Soldiers expressed the importance of continuing HA drops.
"Picture an 8-year-old little girl that lives in basically a cardboard shack" Cloutier said. "She has no shoes, she doesn't have much to eat, so if you want to help this young girl you can partner with any brigade from Fort Stewart, but 1st (Advise and Assist) Brigade will be glad to partner with you. You can send shoes, dresses, toys, coloring books; you can send anything you think would brighten the life of a little girl. The families are very poor, but they are very proud, too, and they want what's best for their families, so anything I think we could give would be well received."
Cloutier added: "To the folks at First Baptist Church in Richmond Hill, you guys have spread love to the people of Iraq; you had a very positive impact on these families and these people's lives. So I just want to thank you for everything that you did to make this possible."