FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The morning sun’s light reflected off their fluorescent orange vests as the workers swept about the courtyard, kicking up clouds of dust in their wake.
Children rushed past them, laughing as they carried new blackboards into a nearby building.
Above them, workers and students alike picked sandbags off the roof and threw them onto the backs of trucks.
Today marked the closure of an Iraqi police force base of operation. In its place opened two schoolhouses, institutions housing some of Iraq’s future educators, businessmen, artists and politicians.
On May 18, Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. Marines here visited these two schools to speak with the faculty and distribute 59 desks.
The joint military team and the teachers assessed the facilities to determine how the Iraqi and U.S. forces could help restore the buildings to provide a better learning environment for the children.
The Iraqi soldiers started the operation by introducing themselves to the school headmasters and administrators. Afterward, the faculty walked the soldiers and Marines through the schools, pointing out how their buildings needed electricity, restroom improvements, and new furniture.
“We asked the Iraqi and American forces to help support the kids by giving us school supplies,” said Ammar Fa’ez Ahmad, headmaster at the Zaid Bin Al-Argam primary school for boys. “We are grateful to the forces for working with us to help all the kids who are studying here.”
The joint military forces wrote down the faculty’s list of requests, then proceeded to help them with what resources they had handy at the moment: school desks.
Many ISF operational headquarters throughout Fallujah are located within former schools, so the soldiers have a supply of furniture at their disposal. They bring the desks along when conducting civil-military operations such as these.
Upon arriving at the school, the soldiers and contracted laborers from the North Fallujah workforce offloaded the desks from military seven-ton trucks and carried them into the schools.
ISF personnel continue visiting these and various other schools in the area to distribute blackboards and school supplies.
“I’m happy to be working to do these kinds of missions,” stated 1st Lt. Ali Amad Mohammad Ali, a platoon commander with the ISF’s 4th Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade. “I’ve gotten some practice (conducting similar missions) with the American forces, and I enjoy helping the people and their kids.”
Additionally, Ali said operations like these allow his soldiers the opportunity to serve as positive role models for the children.
“When the kids grow up, they will see what we did with American forces for their city,” he continued. “The (insurgents) would tell the people that we (soldiers) would do bad things, but now the people see that we are helping rebuild the city. We are all doing something good for the country and for our families.”
Already, soldiers like Ali have helped make a difference.
“Some bad people tried to steal things from out of our schools, but the ISF helped detain them,” Ahmad explained. “They provide security around our schools to prevent this from happening (in the future).”
One school at a time, the Iraqi soldiers are helping pave the way to a brighter future.
“It is good to see the kids happy when they see us on patrol,” Ali stated. “We are glad to be supporting the kids and their schools. My soldiers will continue helping the people to make Fallujah a better place.”