Tag Archive | "Iraq"

Boy Scouts Place 4900 Flags

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Boy Scouts Place 4900 Flags

Posted on 13 November 2010 by Dan

Boy Scouts from Troop 1 in Toms River, NJ, place 4900 flags outside the Ryan Funeral Home in commemoration of each of the soldiers who were killed in the Iraq war.

ASBURY PARK PRESS VIDEO BY THOMAS P. COSTELLO

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U.S., Iraqi Firefighters Help Educate Scouts on Fire Safety

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U.S., Iraqi Firefighters Help Educate Scouts on Fire Safety

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

In the United States, firefighters are generally held in high regard, considered heroes and protectors. In Iraq, firefighters do not have the same image as their U.S. counterparts.

Someone had to do something.

Two Soldiers assigned to the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Division – Center, Lt. Col. Gary Esson, the senior fire service advisor and a native of Joplin, Mo., and Spc. Michael Burris, a fire service advisor and Fayetteville, N.C., native, both with the Provincial Reconstruction Team – Baghdad, have spent nearly a year working to make life for Iraqi firefighters a little bit better.

The first step was to improve living standards inside Iraqi fire stations.

“If there was an [American Base] closing, we would contact them for any furniture that they would give up,” said Esson. “Items like desks, beds and chairs, your basic living items.”

The second step was to get the Iraqi firefighters proper recognition throughout the local community. According to Esson, Iraqi firefighters are not held in the same high regard as the police.

An opportunity for the second step came, May 2, in the form of a “Camping Day,” sponsored by the 72nd Joint Area Support Group. Visiting Iraqi Boy and Girl Scouts had the opportunity to participate in events that included fire safety.

“It gets kids excited seeing what emergency services are doing,” said Esson. “Iraqi kids are the future of the country, they are the next generation. They will grow to trust the fire department and hopefully put trust in other government services.”

The fire safety presentation was a joint effort between Soldiers assigned to the 414th CA Bn., firefighters with Kellogg, Brown and Root Inc. and Iraqi firefighters. They worked together to demonstrate various pieces of fire-fighting and safety equipment and also gave helpful tips on what to do in case of a fire.

“It is important that the public be aware of the fire department and look up to them,” said Burris. “This is the first time they took it upon themselves to show the public who they are.”

Burris has worked alongside the Iraqi firemen and said he enjoyed spending time with them and building bonds with his fellow firemen.

“They are firefighters, like the guys back home where I work. They are good people,” said Burris. “They put themselves in harms way every time they go out. If they are willing to get shot working for their people, I will do my best to get them the training and equipment they need.”

Burris and Iraqi firefighter Kareem Kasim showed a bit of teamwork while participating in a three-legged race. The pair came in first place against two other Iraqi firefighter teams. After he stopped laughing, Burris said that he’d had a funny thought.

“I was cracking up: What kind of war story is this? A three-legged race with a 50-year-old Iraqi man,” said the smiling Soldier.

Story by Sgt. Phillip Valentine of the 366th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

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Iraqi Boy Scouts Interact With American Forces

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Iraqi Boy Scouts Interact With American Forces

Posted on 06 February 2010 by admin

U.S. Air Forces Central, Baghdad Media Outreach Team
Courtesy Story
Date: 02.06.2010

“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

This creed is followed by Boy Scouts around the world and is no different here in Iraq.

A troop of 10 Iraqi Boy Scouts had the opportunity to interact with Air Force and Army personnel while observing equipment used to survey weather patterns during a visit to the Victory Base Complex Jan. 23.

“This is a great opportunity to build the U.S. military and Iraqi relationships,” said 1st Lt. Jeff Aiello, who organized the event, deployed from Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “The kids enjoyed the tour at the Iraq Meteorology Organization and would like to come back again.”

U.S. Forces like to use these kinds of opportunities to build long-lasting bonds with the people of Iraq.

“This was really fun,” said Ali, one of the Scouts. “I am going to tell my friends at school so they come next time.”

The Boy Scouts program in Iraq has been active for nearly a century; it’s run by the Ministry of Education and has nearly 100,000 members, according to the Victory Base council website.

“This is a great program for the Iraqi children and a great opportunity for the American forces to continue a special relationship with the Iraqis,” said Master Sgt. Mario Viray, Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force weather instructor, deployed from Nellis AFB, Nev. “We were also able to learn a little bit more about the culture and traditions of the great Iraqi people.

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Scouting Program Takes Life Again in Iraq

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Scouting Program Takes Life Again in Iraq

Posted on 05 December 2008 by Dan

This story originally appeared on Task Force Mountain on December 2nd, 2008. The article was written and photo taken by Staff Sergent Michael Sauret.

On Saturday afternoons, a fenced-in patch of land outside Camp Victory becomes a ground for children to play and participate in their community.

Young girl scouts sit around a table to decorate arts and crafts. Some of their eyes barely make it over the tabletop as service members show them how to paint with a brush. The boy scouts hurl dodge balls at one another, while others learn how to build a fire using just twigs.

It looks like all fun and games, but there is much at stake for these young Iraqis.

“You can look around and, if nothing else, you are doing something good here because you are creating a positive impact for Iraqi families and the children,” said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Fretz, who is helping bring the scouting program back to life after almost two decades of neglect in Iraq.

“We can work together and create this great program for these kids, and then they get all kinds of good life skills out of it,” added Fretz, who is from Southgate, Michigan.

The scouting movement was revitalized in 2004 by the Green Zone Council, which was formed by a group of Coalition forces in Baghdad who saw value in having Iraqi children involved with their communities. Fretz learned about the council in March and wanted to help out, but logistically it was impossible for him to participate on a regular basis because Baghdad is a 30-minute convoy ride from Camp Victory, which is where Fretz is stationed.

Though disheartened, Fretz didn’t want to give up.

“It’s kind of a big deal for me. I was a scout from the lowest level of cub scouts since I was a youth, all the way to Eagle Scout. And when you get your Eagle Scout, you basically get what is called the Eagle Charge, which is to give back to scouting for the rest of your life,” he said.

Committed, Fretz and other passionate service members decided to start their own Victory Base Council, which brings Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen together with schoolchildren from areas in southern Baghdad. The group began with just a few dedicated volunteers, plus a few other service members who helped out whenever possible.

“I was like the lens that focused everybody else’s energies, so you know, yeah, the lens is important, but without those thousands beams of light of those other people’s energy to focus, I’ve got nothing,” said Fretz, a signal officer with Multi-National Corps – Iraq.

Now, the council has grown to nearly 200 members with more than 120 volunteers on Victory Base Complex. More than 60 of those members are active on a monthly basis.

“After I went out to scout the first time, I was hooked. I am not sure who gets more out of the scouting activities, me or the kids,” agreed 1st Lt. Stephanie Flowers, Champagne, Illinois, a member of the 11th Signal Brigade, which provides strategic communications services units throughout Multi-National Division – Center.

As much fun as the adults are having with the program, they all understand who the true focus is.

“That’s where we’re going to rebuild Iraq, is with the children. It’s with the children where you’re going to start,” said Sgt. 1st Class Nevin Gordner, a scout master from Hughesville, Pa., and member of the 398th Command Sustainment Support Battalion.

The service members volunteer their time every Saturday to teach up to 80 children valuable scouting lessons and new sport activities. Often the kids will outnumber the adults, but the volunteer service members look forward to that.

“I love working with children, and I have many wonderful memories from the 12 years I was a Girl Scout when I was growing up. I’d like to see these children grow up with wonderful memories and learn new skills,” said Staff Sgt. Lani Yearicks, of Gwinn, Michigan., a member of the 10th Mountain Division Band.

As part of the program the volunteers organize at least one scout craft, a team-building exercise and rotate between sports, including soccer, football, ultimate Frisbee and even archery.

“They don’t really have the same setup as we do in terms of handbooks and whatnot,” Fretz said. “We bring in the American knowledge of scouting and how we do things, and we blend that with the Iraqi ideas … So we create sort of a hybrid program.”

Iraq had a scouting program up until the 1980s, but the World Organization Scouting Movement decertified the program after they realized Saddam Hussein was using it to train children as paramilitary youths.

“Perhaps the term, ‘Hitler Youth’ is too strong, but it was something like that,” Fretz said.

For roughly 20 years following decertification, the scouting movement simply didn’t exist in Iraq. Now, it’s back to the beginning stages of a project; a project that is steadily moving forward. The council members are also working with scouting adults so they may continue the project once Coalition forces withdraw from the country.

“I think my biggest mission for the next eight months is probably to get the Iraqi adults more involved so that they’re actually teaching and running the program,” said Maj. Cheryl Hanke, a scout pack leader from St. Louis, who will replace Fretz when he redeploys soon.

It took several months of multiple meetings and socializing and trust building with Iraqi leaders and schoolteachers before the council began working. Leaders then needed to find a site, which happened to be a junkyard once filled with tires and scrap metal.

When an Iraqi counterpart told Fretz this place would become their scout camp one day, Fretz originally scoffed. Now, he says he’s astounded by everyone’s collaboration to make scouting a possibility.

“If you told me that I had to sacrifice five years off my life in order to preserve what we’ve done here, I would do it in a heartbeat. It’s that important to me,” Fretz said.

To support this scouting program in southern Baghdad, please visit: www.victorybasecouncil.org.

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Iraqi Boy Scouts Prepare for Jamboree

Posted on 17 April 2007 by admin

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