11th MEU delivers backpacks to Diwaniyah children

23 Oct 2004 | Gunnery Sgt. Chago Zapata 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Hundreds of children left school with a smile today when Marines and sailors from the 11th MEU and soldiers from 451st Civil Affairs Battalion augmenting the MEU, distributed more than 1,500 backpacks here, Oct. 23, in five different schools.

As the 11th MEU team visited each school, they were greeted politely with excitement and courtesy by both faculty and students.

"This is a good initiative that will foster friendly relations between the U.S. and the Iraqi people," said Hakima Atheem, principal of the Al-Nada kindergarten school. "It's a gift from America to our children -- the future of Iraq."

The children from the kindergarten school received backpacks with cartoon characters printed on them, while the older children in the four primary schools were given backpacks tailored for either boys or girls.
"I like the backpack very much," said Saraab Kudair, a 13-year-old 6th grader from the Al-Nawsaim primary school for girls. "I'm very satisfied. Everything I need is in it."

Each pack came filled with school supplies, such as notebooks, pencils, a ruler and other essential items.

"I think that we've generated quite a bit of trust towards coalition forces, which will make it easier to accomplish other missions in Diwaniyah in the future," said Lt. Col. Ted A. Ruane, commanding officer, Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 11, 11th MEU. "If we start with the young kids and teach them that Americans are good people, that we're here to help them, I think that will go a long way for both their country and ours."

The $25,000 which funded the project came from the Commander's Emergency Response Program and was contracted out to three local contractors who produced a total of 4,000 backpacks.

Since the backpacks were received, the MSSG-11 commanding officer and members of the civil affairs team have visited a total more than eight schools and handed out more than 2,500 backpacks.

"This has been one of the best missions the Marines and sailors of the MSSG have taken part in since we've been to Iraq," Ruane said. "We've had a lot of volunteers to come out and distribute these backpacks."

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
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Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
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LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
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Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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