KIRKUK, Iraq - “Last time I was deployed my battalion commander and chaplain put together a soccer distribution to the kids located in Diyala. It was only a few kids, but it was a huge hit with the local people, and our unit as a whole. When I deployed this time and saw my mission as building a connection and partnership with the Iraqi Army and local citizens, I could think of no better way than to assist them with an aid drop of sports equipment.”
This was the beginning of a large humanitarian aid mission for Maj. Jason Pelletier, the 49th IA Stability Transition Team chief, who is also attached to1st Battalion, 37th Armor, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, out of Fort Bliss, Texas. The project was known as Operation Soccer Craze, which provided complete soccer uniforms, school supplies and soccer balls, to children of Dibis, near Kirkuk, Iraq, July 11.
All of the sports equipment for this humanitarian aid drop was donated by U.S. citizens, most of it coming from Pelletier’s hometown Caribou, Maine. Enough supplies were gathered for 12, 11-person teams to have complete uniforms.
According to Pelletier, the support that came from U.S. citizens and his hometown amazed him.
“The overwhelming support of the citizens who were willing to send … the uniforms, socks, shin guards, and other equipment, without question for Soldiers they barely knew,” he said. “It always amazes me how supportive the United States citizens really are for the Soldiers who serve overseas.”
Pelletier was not the only person overwhelmed by the donations; the children and leadership of the Iraqi Security Forces were also grateful.
“I thank you for what you have done for our children,” said Col. Sukar, of the 49th Brigade, 12th Division Iraqi Army, while standing next to his son in a Caribou soccer uniform.
The son agreed with his father, smiling and saying today was a good day for him and his soccer team.
Maj. Curtis Armstrong, executive officer of the provincial police transition team with 1-1, Special Troops Battalion, 1st AD, assisted Pelletier in planning the event and gathering donations, and said the Iraqi army and police also had a very important role in the event.
“It is very important for the children to see the security forces are not only interested in making a connection with local citizens, but also willing to work together to make life a little better,” said Armstrong.
This work, U.S. citizens contribute to operation Soccer Craze, by SPC Jessica Luhrs-Stabile, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.