Coalition Mission Delivers Meals to Sadr City
Mission Delivers humanitarian assistance and good will.
About 200 families outside of Baghdad will have one more meal in their bellies after a recent humanitarian mission conducted by Coalition Forces outside Sadr City, Iraq.
U.S. Army Maj. Deborah Yarbrough of the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion and her team have just come from helping develop an Iraqi farming cooperative that Coalition Forces assisted in implementing. After checking on the seed, tractors and plows, which is what Yarbrough calls a "long-term solution" it's time for a quicker fix.
The four-vehicle convoy pulled into one of the many "squatter-towns" that have sprung up in the last 18 months. No sooner did the convoy's engines stop than the colorfully-clad, but definitely-dirty, children started to draw near. Some of the team pulled guard as a translator and two Civil Affairs soldiers moved to the back of the trailer attached to one of the Humvees. The trailer was filled with brown cardboard boxes, containing two- hundred bright yellow bags.
"It's like a meal in a bag," Yarbrough explained.
The packages contained canned beef, rice, flour, water, oil, sugar and tea.
"It's not much, but it's a token of good will. Handing-out these bags has another benefit because we put a card in it with a number that these people can call if they see any suspicious activity," said Yarbrough. "That way they don't have to talk to us directly if they don't feel comfortable."
It was useless to try and bring order to the people that had gathered around the vehicle, although the Civil Affairs soldiers gave it their best effort. The line of women and children that stretched out behind the Humvee had swollen. It resembled the crowd at a heavy-metal rock concert more than anything; women and children sometimes push each other to get to the food. Many tried to get to the head of the line more than once, hoping for an extra meal.
More soldiers moved around the back of the Humvee trying to put space between the trailer and the crowd and keep some semblance of a line. Meanwhile, both children and adults tried to score an added bonus-the cardboard boxes the meals had come in. When the soldier's had handed out all the meals in the box, they would flatten the cardboard and toss it to the side of the trailer. From there it's fair game.
When asked if it was the women and children that usually approach her team to receive the humanitarian assistance, Yarbrough replied, "Yeah, especially when they see that we have female soldiers. We sometimes hand out toys too, and the kids love that. If the kid walks away smiling then their parent is usually smiling, but we don't hand them out at the same time. We've found that it's just too much."
Half the bags were handed out, and the team decided to divide the day's load between two locations. They mounted up and moved down the road about a half-mile. Some of the people followed Yarbrough's team down the dirt road through the web of electrical wires. Though the women's black burkas made it hard to recognize who had already received food, the children's faces and brightly colored clothes were easy to recognize.
The second location mirrored the first. Women and children crowded the back of the trailer and walked away with bright yellow bags and smiles on their face.
"We try to involve the community as much as possible," said Yarbrough. "The food is local, local people put the bags together, and then we distribute them-locally."
Source: U.S. Department of Defense
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