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Marines reach out to Iraqi schoolchildren in need

10 May 2006 | Cpl. Mark Sixbey

Class just settled down when some Iraqi kids received a welcome distraction from their studies – Marines.

Marines of Civil Affairs Group Detachment 3, Team 1, attached to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment visited the Al Nabatiya Elementary School near Fallujah, bearing boxes of toys and school supplies May 9.

“The kids were really excited,” said Capt. J.R. Rinaldi, Darkhorse CAG’s team leader.

Marines delivered more than 20 boxes of paper, pencils, notebooks, book bags and pencil boxes, donated by the Spirit of America foundation and private citizens.
They also went from classroom-to-classroom handing out candy and greeting the students.

Young faces lit up when one Marine started handing out soccer balls, donated by a high school student in Mission Viejo, Calif.  All of the toys and school supplies CAG Marines delivered to Iraqi schools come from people back in the States.

“I’m grateful there are caring people in America who want to better the lives of those not as fortunate as us,” said Rinaldi, 37, from Vancouver, Wash. 

The school is one of the poorest in the region.  It has no electricity, no running water and iron bars for windows. 

Cpl. Justin Wayne Bowie, a radio operator for Headquarters and Support Company said this school was in the worst condition of the three he visited so far in this deployment.

“They definitely need the help,” said the 21-year-old from Conway, Ark.  “There were 60 kids and four rooms. We should do something.”

Part of the Civil Affairs mission in Iraq is to establish relationships with local people as well as rebuild structures.  Rinaldi said they also came to assess the building’s needs, acknowledging that helping the school is more than a one-day effort.

The roof is a particular concern, he added.  The classrooms are currently sheltered overhead by little more than palm tree branches and mud.

“It also needs new plaster work and paint as well,” Rinaldi said. “You name it, it needs it.”

The team plans to send Iraqi contractors to the school to estimate the cost of the improvements. 

“My hope is that we can improve the learning environment,” Rinaldi said. “If it’s doable, we’ll do it.”