BASRA, Iraq - The Basra Provincial Reconstruction Team and Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment recently visited two Basra universities to increase students' awareness of various educational opportunities.

Jeff Lodermeier, assistant cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and three PRT members visited the north and south campuses of the University of Basra in October.

"The goal of these visits is to support the education initiatives in multiple ways," Lodermeier said.

During the visits, the PRT's public diplomacy officers spoke with students about scholarship opportunities and studying abroad in the United States.

English language specialist, Christina Chandler, also provided training to English professors on the campuses.

"The training seeks to modernize the skills of English professors and their students, many of whom will become English teachers in the future," Chandler said.

Along with sharing new paths of education with these students and new ideas of instruction with professors, the PRT opened a door for communication between students and American Soldiers.

This came as a change of pace for the Soldiers as they were enthusiastically received by the students at both campuses.

"Students will come up to you just to talk, showing what they have learned," said Sgt. Christopher Sorensen, an Olney, Ill., native. "This is my second tour in Iraq and my first time to have a chance for these kinds of interactions."

"Face-to-face engagement with Iraqis is essential to the mission of normalizing relations between our two countries," Lodermeier said. "The military support provided makes this possible in the sometimes unstable security environment. These visits give students and the Soldiers the opportunity to share and learn about each other's cultures in a more casual and friendly environment."

This type of interaction and support from U.S forces and Iraq Security Forces is exactly what Lodermeier hoped to gain from these visits.

"These students are the future of Iraq," said Sgt. William Tyrell, a Panama City, Fla., native. "The knowledge that they obtain at universities will [help make] Iraq a more stable country."

1st Lt. Eoghan Cullen is assigned to 1st Bn., 68th Armored Regt., 3/4 Advise and Assist Brigade, deployed in support of United States Division-South and the 1st Infantry Division.