AL QAYYARAH, IRAQ Utah Army National Guard soldiers from the 116th Engineer Co., Convoy Security, distributed humanitarian and educational supplies to two villages in northern Iraq Saturday.
The items were donated by individuals and businesses throughout Utah as part of the "Feed Uncle SAM" drive that took place between September and November.
Soldiers from the 116th Engineers joined with an Army civil affairs team and with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to distribute the supplies about 65 miles south of Mosul.
The supplies came as a surprise to the villagers, who were not expecting the visit from the 116th. Upon arrival in the village of Qudeela, officers visited with the local tribal Sheik and with the village school headmaster to explain the purpose of their visit. Sheik Hamad and the headmaster accepted 10 large boxes of educational supplies, including notebooks, pencils, pens, paper and crayons. The headmaster thanked the 116th for the supplies, and said they should supply the school for at least six months.
After unloading the educational supplies, Sheik Hamad invited officers directing the operation into his house for traditional Iraq Chai Tea and to discuss the problems facing his village. After the visit, the sheik oversaw the distribution of 40 boxes of humanitarian supplies to his people. The supplies included blankets, quilts, shoes, clothes, hygiene kits and food items, all donated by Utahans.
Next, the 116th moved to the village of Ankawa where they first delivered supplies to the local medical clinic. Clinic manager Idrees Abd Mohammad accepted five boxes with more than $1,500 worth of medical supplies, including splints, surgical instruments and bandages. Mohammad could not stop smiling as the donated items were placed in his clinic and he repeatedly thanked the 116th for the donations.
It was easy to see from the sparse appearance of the clinic that the donations were very needed.
Afterward, the local tribal leader, Sheik Mohammad, invited officers to his house for Chai tea while soldiers unloaded other humanitarian supplies in the village square. Sheik Mohammad spoke to the officers about the problems facing his village and of the difficulties his people faced. After tea and discussion, he oversaw the distribution of 40 boxes of humanitarian supplies and toys to his villagers.
The children of Ankawa excitedly gathered around Sheik Mohammad as he passed out dolls, stuffed animals and toy cars from Utahans. Meanwhile, their parents formed a separate line to receive shoes, clothes, food and hygiene items. Staff Sgt. Kenneth Davisson of Preston, Idaho, said his favorite moment was when a young child ran up to the sheik's house with bare feet. Davisson searched through the shoes and found a perfect size for the boy and sent him on his way smiling with a brand new pair of shoes on his feet.
"It was such a treat to be able to give this young boy a pair of shoes, since he didn't have any," Davisson said.
"It was a real good experience to see that the items we handed out were going directly to people who really needed them," said Sgt. Leallen Blackhair of Fort Duchesne.
"It was special for our soldiers because we got to distribute the goods that Utahns had sent, and that made it more personal," said Master Sgt. Kim Tanner of Paragonah.
More than $75,000 worth of items were collected in Utah last fall during Feed Uncle SAM, directed by Jennie Taylor, the 116th Family Readiness Group leader. The donations were used to send all 700-plus Utah National Guard members a care package at Christmas and to send humanitarian items to the major Utah units for distribution in Iraq.