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Second Lt. Dwayne Edwards, 26, a platoon commander with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, from New York City, exchanges high-fives with students at Ma'an Primary School in Rutbah, Iraq, Nov. 21. In an effort to encourage community policing in the city, the Marines and Iraqi police officers distributed stuffed animals to the students and spoke to them about the United States and Iraq's joint commitment to the security of Iraq and development of the critical infrastructure.

Photo by Capt. Paul Greenberg

Reserve Marines encourage community policing

21 Nov 2008 | Capt. Paul Greenberg 1st Marine Division

Reserve Marines based here teamed up with Iraqi Police Nov. 21 to visit Ma’an Primary School in Rutbah, Iraq, to provide a venue for the police officers to begin mentoring children at one of the town’s poorest schools and to get an idea of conditions for the students there. 

The Marines from Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 brought more than 300 stuffed animals for the police officers and school officials to distribute to the students. 

The stuffed animals were sent to the Marines by private citizens from all over America who made their donations through Beanies for Baghdad, a 501(c) non-profit organization under the umbrella of America Supports You.

Some of the stuffed animals were mailed by Webelos Pack #1968 in Fairfax, Va.  Others were sent by Ross Williamson, a high school senior in Bolton, Conn., who explained in his letter that he is collecting and sending 2,000 stuffed animals to U.S. troops all over the world as his senior project.

Before giving out the toys, the Iraqi Police took the opportunity to speak to the children about their partnership with Coalition forces and their commitment to the people of their community.

“Coalition forces are working in conjunction with the Iraqi Police to ensure the safety of the citizens of Rutbah,” said Ahmed Mohammed Mahmud Sabbar in Arabic, addressing a fourth-grade class.  Sabbar, a 21-year-old policeman, is originally from Baghdad and has served on the Rutbah force for the past year. 

“American troops are here to assist the Iraqi government in improving the quality of life,” continued Sabbar.  “Coalition forces are working with the Rutbah city council to help improve education in Rutbah.  Coalition forces will be departing soon, but they want to leave this gesture of goodwill sent by the people of the United States.”

Sabbar and another police officer then passed out the stuffed animals to the children while, with the help of an interpreter, the Marines spoke with the school principal, Hashim Eprahem Awad, 44, a Rutbah native.

“I’m happy that the police are here to speak to the children for the first time,” said Awad, whose brother, a captain in the Iraqi Police, was killed in the line of duty in Ramadi in October.  “(The police) are like our families.  We know they are helping us to destroy the terrorists so we can sleep comfortable at night.”

After departing the school, the Marines made the hour-long drive back to their base and disembarked their vehicles for a patrol debrief.

Capt. William Steuber, 34, the battalion lines-of-operations manager from Rochester, N.Y., took the opportunity to explain to the Marines, from the battalion leadership’s perspective, the value of the mission they had just completed.

“I know you may be asking yourselves, ‘How can something as simple as a beanie baby make a difference in our mission here?’ Well, I’ll tell you.  These young people are the future of Iraq.  From their earliest memories, all they have known is war and an American military presence in their city,” said Steuber, who had been meeting with the Rutbah city council leaders to discuss ways to improve the local educational system while the other Marines and police officers were delivering the toys and inspecting the school.

“Most of these kids have never met Americans face-to-face before today.  We were the first ones, and we brought them stuffed animals, something they’ve probably never had before.  They will remember this, and they will remember you, the positive impression you made today. This isn’t just winning hearts and minds.  We’re paving the way for future relations.  These kids may be business partners with your kids one day.  We’re setting the stage right now for building that future relationship.”

1st Marine Division