U.S. soldiers help to create goodwill within the hearts of Iraqis by volunteering their spare time to help families in need who are faced with chaos and hardship every day. The Civil Military Operation Center in Baghdad helps 1,000 Iraqis each month mostly with medical treatment, dental assistance or legal aid. When visitors leave the center they are carrying packages donated with food, clothes, toys, hygiene products and school supplies.

Located on the grounds of one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, the center is highly secure, which is one reason it is frequented by Iraqis. Children can play freely in the courtyard’s playground, while their parents seek treatment or advice. This is where you’d likely find 1st Lt. Christine Anouchian, 24, of Glendale, Calif, (right) who visits the center at least once a month…

The Air Force intelligence officer plays with the children and brings them candy and other goodies that are shipped to her from her home base in Japan.

“I like to be able to give to the children, who will be shaping Iraq’s future, and let them know that we’re here to help,” Anouchian said.


Several Soldiers help at the clinic daily. In addition to Army doctors and legal assistants, the CMOC staff welcomes all who want to volunteer. Many service members receive boxes from home and bring them to the clinic because they know the items are making a difference, said Sgt. Juan Perez, the noncommissioned officer in charge.

Jennifer Hornaday, 23, accompanies an Iraqi girl down a slide at the Civil Military Operations Center, where she volunteers her time. The Charlotte, N.C., native works for the Department of Defense as an administrative manager. (Photo by Spc. Laura M. Bigenho; 28th Public Affairs Detachment.)

The center works closely with the Government of Iraq to help as many Iraqi citizens as possible. Perez described a man who showed up recently who could barely walk. Air Force doctors at the clinic performed an eight-hour surgery on him. Afterwards, the tearful patient thanked Perez and the doctor with hugs.

“When we help a person who couldn’t find help for months, (the Iraqis) know we are really here to help them,” Perez said. “I feel proud of what we’re doing here.”

Christine always invites her fellow service members to volunteer and she wishes more people knew about the CMOC. She wants to encourage people to contact her if they want to help. The center is in special need of vitamins, lotions, shampoos and hygiene items, she said.

To help, contact the multi-national corps chaplain by e-mail (replace the words "at" and "dot" with the appropriate e-mail symbols):
HeartsForBaghdad (at) iraq (dot) centcom (dot) mil


MNC-I Chaplain
Attn: Hearts for Baghdad
Unit 42014
APO AE 09432

Original story by Spc. Laura M. Bigenho, 28th Public Affairs Detachment in Iraq, edited by GNN-i


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