304th Civil Affairs Brigade Brings Christmas to Iraqi Children

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20081257381.jpgBy CPT Andrew Romer

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

This was an opportunity to get back in the mix and let them know we are still here trying to make life better for them at all cost.

BAGHDAD (Catholic Online) – The monstrous desert painted MRAP’s rolled into the Iraqi Village kicking up dust and debris, the five vehicle convoy moved ominously within a cloud of death and destruction, but that didn’t deter the children as they flocked to the American vehicles with no sign of fear in their eyes. Their parents, scraping out a living and providing the best they could for the little one’s allowed them to move closer as they themselves waved and smiled at the incoming soldiers. This is Iraq 2008 and the convoy is run by the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade, slightly deviating from its daily mission to bring Christmas cheer to children of a nearby village.

Just something as simple as handing out Christmas stockings and bags filled with tooth brushes, soap, shampoo, school supplies, stuffed animals and toys brings joy and acceptance from children of all ages. Older boys and girls were very friendly and always wanting to high five or give a soldier a customary kiss on the cheek. But the best part is always the young children the 4 and 5 year olds, handing them a stuffed animal and seeing the look on their faces makes the tour in Iraq worth it.

The 304th has made several humanitarian assistance visits, from providing local villages with medical assistance to having mentally handicapped orphans come visit the Victory Base Camp complex or being able to provide the Mother Theresa Orphanage in Baghdad with winter coats, stuffed animals and some hygiene products. The orphanage is run by Christians in the area who care for all religious denominations; because of this, the heavily Muslim population has a healthy respect for Christians and the groups they support within Iraq, in fact the Government of Iraq just declared Christmas a holiday.

The 304th CA brigade functions as a regionally focused, expeditionary, operational-level CA capability that is currently supporting the XVIIIth Airborne Corps in Iraq. The brigade supports the corps and possesses a CA functional specialist cell, they are focused on development, reconstruction, and stabilization, and also enables support to civil administration, and humanitarian assistance. The brigade HQ provides command, control, and staff supervision of the operations of the brigade and assigned CA battalions or attached units. Its focus is on tactical and operational employment of CA forces and attached Civil-Military Operations forces. The CA brigade plans, enables, shapes, and manages Civil Affairs Operations by, with, and through International Government Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, and Other Government Agencies through its Civil Liaison Team. The brigade has a functional specialty cell with capabilities in four functional specialty areas; Public Health and Welfare, Rule of Law, Infrastructure, and Governance.

This particular HA effort was inspired by two little boys and a soldier’s love for baseball. CPT Andrew Romer, a New York Yankee’s season ticket holder since 2003 and a rabid sports fan started a T-Shirt drive in September while his 2nd son Andrew was being born back in Maryland. You always think of the children not just at home but also here in Iraq, so I focused on a local school with 350 students and tuned some of my efforts to enlisting Major League Baseball. It’s a great way for some Iraqi children to get a piece of real America what better way to identify with the USA then with baseball, it also says hey we are still here and we do care about you. CPT Romer requested a small amount of T-shirts for local children that the brigade would encounter while out on nation building and humanitarian assistance missions, the response back was overwhelming.

I honestly didn’t expect half the contributions we received, The Yankees, Orioles, Nationals and Pirates led the way, their generosity was amazing, Major League Baseball does great work and this was just the icing on the cake. Besides T-shirts each team also sent souvenir type items for the troops, to include autographed pictures and cards of their star players. In addition to MLB, we used numerous contributions from multiple sources including church’s local business and private organizations back home.

It was good to get out and be able to stop and interact with the local nationals. We have gotten away from that type of mission over the past couple years and the Iraqis were wondering if we even cared anymore and why didn’t we advertise some of the good things we are doing? This was an opportunity to get back in the mix and let them know we are still here trying to make life better for them at all cost.

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Catholic Online wishes all of our men and women who are deployed a blessed New year. Thank you for your service.

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