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Petty Officer 2nd Class Bridget Shanahan, a corpsman with Shock Trauma Platoon, 2nd Combat Logistics Battalion, and Lance Cpl. Michael Johnson, a wireman with Communications Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, hand out stuffed animals to a second grade student at Houran Primary School in Rutbah, Iraq, Dec. 2. Not only was this the first time most of the children at Houran had ever interacted with Coalition forces, but it was an education in the integral role that females serve in the U.S. military.::r::::n::

Photo by Capt. Paul Greenberg

Iraqi children receive an education

4 Dec 2008 | Capt. Paul Greenberg

A patrol of Reserve Marines, soldiers and sailors, led by Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, showed their support for local schools and introduced children to the role that women serve in the U.S. armed forces when visiting the Houran Primary School in Rutbah, Iraq, Dec. 2. 

The troops departed their base under a cloudless blue sky, with the early morning temperature dipping down to 42 degrees for their hour-long drive through the desert and into the town.

After a stop at the Rutbah City Council building to make final coordination for the school visit and to assist local technicians with preparations for their new radio station, the troops parked outside the primary school and hauled in backpacks and duffel bags full of gifts for the children.

Not only was this the first time most of the children at Houran had ever interacted with Coalition forces, but it was an education in the integral role that females serve in the U.S. military.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Bridget Shanahan, a Navy reservist and corpsman with Shock Trauma Platoon, 2nd Combat Logistics Battalion, is one of a small number of females stationed aboard the base here. 

In addition to being an asset to the patrol as a corpsman trained for combat, Shanahan spoke to the children at the school.

“I provide medical care not only to the U.S. military, but also to the Iraqi forces,” Shanahan explained to the kids.  “I’m here today with Iraqi Security Forces and the U.S. troops to pass out stuffed animals and soccer balls.  They come from people in the U.S., many from teachers and students, just like you.    We’re helping to provide security and stability in the country and to also improve education in the schools.”

Shanahan, 23, is a resident of Granada Hills, Calif. and a junior at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif.  She balances her weekend training drills with a full-time course load.  She plans to finish her bachelor’s degree and pursue a career as a nurse or physician’s assistant after she returns from deployment. 

Shanahan stood center-stage in the school’s courtyard with Muthana Jubaer Juwana, the Rutbah City Council president.  Juwana accompanied the U.S. troops on their mission for two reasons. 

First, the Marine task force based here involves local Iraqi leadership in all community-related projects as Coalition forces are taking a back seat to Iraqi Security Forces and elected government officials, who now have the lead on security and governance in al-Anbar province. 

Additionally, Juwana’s son is a second-grade student at Houran.  After Shanahan and Juwana addressed the first and second grade classes in a formation in the school’s courtyard, Juwana took a photo of Shanahan with his son to show to the rest of the family.

Taleb Mahmood Hamid, the school’s 45-year-old vice principal, served as a gracious host for Coalition forces and city council members. 

Hamid, who has lived in Rutbah his entire life, began teaching in 1989 and has worked in the local school system ever since. As a father of seven children, whose ages range from 6 to 19, he has plenty of experience to prepare him for his role of mentor, instructor and disciplinarian for a student body of more than 300 children who has grown up amidst the Coalition’s constant presence in the country’s counterinsurgency struggle over the past five years.

Through an interpreter, Hamid said that the Coalition troops made an overwhelmingly positive impression on the children, and added, “They are very happy to meet a female from the Coalition forces for the first time.”

Hamid expressed his gratitude toward the people in America who sent the soccer balls and toys, and to the troops who brought the gifts. 

The Marines and sailors of 2nd Bn., 25th Marines do plan to return to Houran Primary, but only after they have visited every primary and high school in the town in order to continue with their mission of spreading American goodwill and making an accurate assessment of school conditions for the future generation of Iraq’s leaders.


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