News: Airmen build ties with Iraqi families
Story by Senior Airman Alyssa Miles
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Forty-five Airmen volunteered to visit and distribute donated items to local families here July 24 as part of the Sather Air Base Good Neighbor Program.
This program, which is sponsored by Sather's Rising Six, is made up of volunteers who take a trip once a month to distribute care packages to Iraqi families near Sather. The packages include items the Iraqi families may have a hard time getting otherwise, such as personal hygiene items, dry food, toys for children, snacks and treats.
According to Senior Airman Ashley Bruce, 447th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron, more than $20,000 worth of new and lightly used items have been donated in support of the program by way of supporters from the United States, as well as Airmen and Soldiers inside the Victory Base Complex.
During the most recent trip, the volunteers broke into two groups with half going door-to-door to drop off packages while the rest stayed behind to play with the children who were excitedly waiting for the Airmen in a dusty compound.
"The children love to see people come here," said Airman Bruce. "They always know we're coming, and they're waiting."
The children quickly took to the Airmen and included some in a game of soccer that was already underway. Other Airmen were taken to a private area where they were taught games the children play from day-to-day.
While donated items and quality time are beneficial to the Iraqi families, Duluth, Minn., native Chief Master Sgt. Jodi Stauber says the Iraqis are not the only ones who gain from these visits.
"It's good for the Airmen and Soldiers who come out to visit with them," she said. "It's an experience you will never forget. It really makes you feel like you're truly making a difference in someone's life."
Airman Bruce, a Bellefonte, Pa., native deployed from the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, says she gets personal satisfaction from volunteering.
"It's a life changing experience," she said. "You get to come out and see a different part of the world -- see how it is to be secluded and not have everything you're used to having at home."
Chief Stauber, who works as the 447th Air Expeditionary Group superintendent here and the 148th Fighter Wing command chief in Duluth, says she volunteers because it's a good chance to give back.
"We should reach out to the citizens around us and build those relationships," she said. "It's important to take the time to appreciate this community. I would encourage anyone to come and enjoy the time spent — it's definitely worthwhile."