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Minnesota National Guard
Guardsmen visits Iraqi school, distribute supplies

AL MADINAH, Iraq -- Marines with 4th Civil Affairs Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and Soldiers with Able Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion of the 136th Infantry Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), accompanied Maj. Gen. Tariq Abdul Wahab Jasin, commanding general of the 1st Iraqi Army Division to visit a recently opened school in Al Madinah As Siyahiyah (Tourist Town) and distribute supplies to the children October 9

Able Company, 2-136 is an Army National Guard unit based out of Detroit Lakes and Bemidji, Minn

Opening the school and giving out supplies opens up a lot of doors to the city to help out," said Army 1st Lt Sean M Kiesz, 26, platoon commander of 2nd Platoon, Able Company and a native of Bismarck, ND "It was great to see the looks on the faces of the children"

During the visit, the Iraqi Army Soldiers handed out school materials and the school principal accepted a $500 donation from the families of Soldiers with 2-136 to assist with the moving costs to their new building and any other expenses that arise in the first year with a new school

The check was presented to the principal by Army Lt. Col. Gregg L Parks, Battalion Commander of 2/136, accompanied by Gen Tariq

Tariq and Iraqi Army members also gave out beanie baby toys, soccer balls and other items for children's entertainment

"The goal of civil affairs is to interact with the local populous," said Gunnery Sgt Fletcher P Veitch, 34, 4th Civil Affairs Group representative for 1st MLG and a native of Leonardtown, Md "It lets us get a chance to reach out and touch the Iraqi people's world"

The event symbolized the growing trust between "Tourist Town" and coalition forces The Soldiers of Able Company see these social functions as a great way to increase a positive relationship with the area

"After seeing what we've done, it lets them know that we are here to help, and the Iraqi Army is here to help," said Army Staff Sgt Douglas A Newman, 24, fire team leader with 2nd Platoon, Able Company

After organizing an event that increased spirits in Al Madinah, the Soldiers felt that they made a difference in the Iraqi people's lives

"The best part of all of the missions is the interaction with the culture," said Army Sgt Jesse J Wiemer, 22, fire team leader with Able Company and a native of Fargo "The children are the future of Iraq, and with (Civil Affairs) operations like this, they learn to trust us"

"The Civil Affairs missions are critical because it gives the people a sense of hope," said Army Capt Adam A Gilbertson, 29, company commander of Able Company and a Moorhead native

"Today was a great day for coalition forces and for the people of Al Madinah"

In an e-mail to family members back in the Detroit Lakes area, Gilbertson wrote, "During the mission, we also had the opportunity for MG Tariq to assist us in making the first payment of over $20,000 for the repair and replacement of the water pumping system in the town"

The project is very close to being finished and people can already tell the difference in the town The water is now flowing to many of the people's homes and the irrigation system for the palm trees and bushes is back in working order Al Madinah is starting to regain some of the beauty that it had before the war began, Gilbertson said

In the next month, Gilbertson will be visiting Camp Victory to see the Soldiers in the 3rd platoon and see what they have been doing

By Lance Cpl Ryan Thomlinson, 1st Marine Logistics Group DL-Online, Oct 31, 2006

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