SAMARRAH, Iraq--The grin on the Iraqi soldier's face widened a little further as a little girl ran back to her house, holding up a new stuffed animal up and showing it off to her parents.
Children smiling and parading off with their new toys was a common sight Thursday as Iraqi soldiers took a break from their normal duties to pass out toys. Stopping in the village of Mukashyfa, near Samarrah, the soldiers carried out Operation Toy Drop for one afternoon, hoping to brighten up the neighborhood's children.
Making several stops during the operation, the Iraqi soldiers often found themselves surrounded by the local children. In all, an estimated 250 children received gifts from the soldiers.
"When the children see the Iraqi army coming, they think we are going to begin searching their homes," said Capt. Ali Aswed Ahmed, an Iraqi army platoon leader. "We want this to make a difference in how they see us."
Ahmed acknowledged his soldiers enjoyed handing out toys to the children.
"The soldiers know this is something that will make the children happy," Ahmed said. "These children are just like their own children and they want to make them happy. They could see these children were excited (to receive the gifts)."
The soldiers handed out more than four truckloads worth of toys which were donated by families in the United States, said Maj. Stuart Stovall, A Company, 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion team leader.
"A toy is really such a small thing, but it really goes a long way for a kid," Stovall said. "An Iraqi child is no different from any kid back home. They all like getting toys no matter what day it is."
Stovall said the successful operation served two purposes.
"We went out there and tried to show the Iraqi people that we truly care about them," Stovall said. "We also wanted to get the Iraqi army out there and involved in the local communities. It is really important that they are accepted by their own people. We took a big step today with this operation."
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This work, Iraqi troops bring children toys, by SSG Anthony White, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.