The grin on the Iraqi soldier’s face widened as a little girl ran back to her house holding up a new stuffed animal and showing it to her parents… Children smiling and parading off with their new toys was a common sight as Iraqi soldiers took a break from their normal duties recently to pass out toys. Stopping in the village of Mukashyfa, near Samarrah, the soldiers not only cheered local children, they positively affected the opinion Iraqi adults have of their nation’s troops.
Operation Toy Drop included several stops where the Iraqi soldiers often found themselves surrounded by the local children. In all, an estimated 250 kids received gifts brought by soldiers, more than four truckloads of toys that were donated by families in the United States.
“When the children see the Iraqi army coming, they think we are going to begin searching their homes,” said Capt. Ali Aswed Ahmed, an Iraqi army platoon leader. “We want this to make a difference in how they see us.”
The troops also enjoyed the operation.
“These children are just like their own children and they want to make them happy," Ahmed said. "They could see these children were excited.”
“A toy is really such a small thing, but it really goes a long way for a kid,” said Maj. Stuart Stovall, A Company, 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion team leader. “An Iraqi child is no different from any kid back home. They all like getting toys no matter what day it is.”
Stovall said the operation served two purposes.
“We went out there and tried to show the Iraqi people that we truly care about them,” Stovall said. “We also wanted to get the Iraqi army out there and involved in the local communities. It is really important that they are accepted by their own people. We took a big step today with this operation.”
(press release and photo by Sgt. Tony White, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Det., Multi-National Force)