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Marines bring computers, web access to Iraqi schools

14 Mar 2006 | Cpl. Mark Sixbey

Marines and Soldiers attached to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment recently made a special delivery to the future of Iraq – the children.

The 6th Civil Affairs Group, Detachment 4, Team 3, also called the “6-4-3” distributed 30 computers between one high school, three primary schools and three elementary schools in Ferris Town, March 12.

“There was a very, very good response from the teachers,” said CWO2 David Stabenaw, officer-in-charge of 6-4-3.  “As soon as they found out about the new computers, they were very happy.”

Each of the seven schools in the Ferris Town area received at least four computers, a color laser printer, hardware and software ready for Internet access.

“Thirty brand new computers was a pretty big deal,” said Sgt. Rich F. Litto, a 48-year-old military policeman from Boston assigned to 6-4-3. “It’s an education aid for the teachers and students there.” 

Alumni from Strayer University, located in Alexandria, Va., donated the computers, along with $5,000 to buy monitors, printers, networking hardware and software.

“This was a special donation through the foundation I started to collect money for school supplies for Iraqi children,” explained Stabenaw, a 38-year-old from Fort Mill, S.C.  “The university ran a story in their alumni newsletter in January, and the chairman and CEO of the university read it and decided to do something.”

Originally, the university offered $15,000 for school supplies.  Stabenaw asked that they spend it on computers and mail those instead.  The university bought the computers and added a $5,000 check for accessories.

The 6-4-3 is no stranger to the neighborhood.  The team supervised refurbishment projects with four of the schools over the past several months, fixing windows, repainting and repairing buildings, even adding a water tower to one school to give the students clean drinking water.

The day was unique in another aspect for Litto and Stabenaw, who came to the battalion in October 2005.

“I think what stuck out the most was dealing with the teachers, many of whom were women,” Litto said.  “It was the most interaction with Iraqi women we’ve had in the months we’ve been in the country.” 

Litto said one woman kept saying “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,” when she saw the PCs. 

“We were very professional in dealing with the cultural differences, not shaking hands, not taking pictures with them,” Stabenaw said.

The Marines also gave the students several boxes of school supplies and solar-powered radios.

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Reece, a hospital corpsman assigned to Company I, stationed in the area, noticed the people’s response to the gift while on patrol a few days later.

“I was in Ferris Town this morning, handing out candy to some kids and this 18-year-old guy came up to me saying ‘Thank you, thank you for the computers,’” said Reece, 23, from Tuscaloosa, Ala.