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Students at an elementary school in Rawah, Iraq, - a town on the northern bank of the Euphrates River in western al Anbar province - smile at Marines from Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5, who brought snacks Nov. 25 to share with the children. The Marines brought the children treats as a gesture to show they are good neighbors.::r::::n::

Photo by Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

Students treated by Marines

25 Nov 2008 | Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

Like children anywhere, Iraqi students have a bit of a sweet tooth.

To satisfy that sweet tooth, Marines from Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5 took a variety of treats to an elementary school here to share with the neighborhood children Nov. 25.

"It was a gesture of kindness and good faith," said Staff Sgt. Jaime Benavides, 32, platoon sergeant for PRP-3 from San Antonio.

The idea to share treats with the children came to the Marines of PRP-3 after multiple patrols in the area surrounding Traffic Control Point 3 on the northern edge of the Euphrates River. The Marines had an abundance of cookies, cupcakes, candy and other sweets provided to them from the dining facility and care packages from home. 

"Do we really need to eat all that food?" asked Cpl. Drew March, 24, a fire team leader with PRP-3 from Speedway, Ind. "This was a small thing to do, but I guarantee it made those kids' days."

While the missions for the Marines with PRP-3 have been reduced due to greater responsibility handed to the Iraqi Police, the Marines are still members of the community and wanted to show themselves as generous neighbors.  Marines on patrols had also observed some of the neighborhood children acting skittish around Marines, and the leathernecks wanted to ensure the young Iraqis realized the Marine presence is meant to be a positive influence on the town.

"We want the people to see that we're here to help them and that they don't have to be afraid of the Marines," said 2nd Lt. Randall Blowers, 25, platoon commander for PRP-3 from Vernon, Conn.

In addition to distributing the snacks, the Marines also played soccer and joked with the children.

"Obviously they received us well," March said.   "One kid came up to (Marines) on security and said, 'When I grow up, I want to be an American like you.'"

While the treats were welcomed by the students at the elementary school, it was also satisfying for the Marines, who had big smiles to match those of the children.

"As much as they always ask for things on patrol, kids are my weakness, so it felt good to help them out," said March, who used his digital camera to record some students saying "Hi Miss Megan" to his sweetheart back home who is an elementary school teacher.

The planning for the visit to the school was the work of the Marines in the platoon, and it showed great initiative on their part, according to Benavides.

"It's good to see the junior Marines taking the ball and organizing this event and taking a leadership role," Benavides said. "All I did was supervise and look over the plan, but we executed what the junior Marines came up with. They got it accomplished safely and with respect to the Iraqis' cultural needs."

"This is good for the Marines who haven't been outside the (camps) much to see that the (Iraqis) are good people," March said.

1st Marine Division