By Tech. Sgt. Joel Langton
U.S. Central Command Air Forces
HAWR RAJAB, IRAQ – Red Horse Village of Hope students got a lot more than hope Thursday afternoon when students had their first payday.
Members of the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron, headquartered at Balad Air Base, paid out nearly $10,000 to 120 students, according to Master Sgt. John Hudson, a Red Horse logistics technician, who oversaw the payday. Sergeant Hudson is an Air Force Reservist who worked in an accounting department in the civilian sector for 11 years.
The 30-members of the 557th are a combination of active-duty, Reservists and Air National Guardsmen.
The Village of Hope program is a test program that has many in the Department of Defense watching. Similar to a technical school, Iraqi students are taught rebuilding skills such as masonry, electrical and plumbing. Students are paid $10 per school day they attend.
Although the school's technical curriculum hasn't begun, students have started building a foundation of reading, writing and arithmetic skills, earning their first payday.
Each student received about 125,000 Iraqi Dinars, or about $100 dollars, for the two weeks of studies. "This is happy and cool," said Hassan Alwan, the first person paid who added it was the largest payday he has had since the end of the war.
Although everyone was happy to receive the money, there were lessons learned for both sides, said Capt. Josh Aldred, Village of Hope commander and project manager. "The students learned how important attendance is, and we're taking steps to have stronger proof of attendance," Captain Aldred said.
Sergeant Hudson said that the Red Horse team established much more credibility by following through with the payday.
"A lot of the students had a wait-and-see attitude," he said. "They didn't think they were going to actually get paid so we gained a lot of trust."
Most of the students are residents of Hawr Rajab and when they graduate from the school they will receive an increase in pay and go to work rebuilding the local village that was decimated during the war.