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Building friendships one toy at a time
By Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, 177FW/PA; Photos by Master Sgt. Joseph Iacovone Jr., 177FW/SF
TAG at Operation Jump Start

The perimeter of Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq, is not a barren stretch of land, far from it. “A lot of children live and play on the lands along our base perimeter,” says Master Sgt. Joseph Iacovone Jr., Team Leader, Quick Reaction Force (QRF). “Some of the fields are used by their families for sheep and cattle. It is these kids we normally have direct contact with and are able to provide water or candy to on a routine basis during our patrols.”

According to the members of the 177th Security Forces currently deployed to Kirkuk, one of the perks of being on perimeter patrol is the opportunity to interact with Iraqis. This is aided in part by the donation of school supplies, clothes and toys sent to them from friends and family back home. Some of these gifts are turned over to the base chaplain to support a program called Operation Outreach.

The chaplain collects the school supplies that are sent to individuals and squadrons and turns them over to U.S. Army or Coalition forces for dissemination to the local schools. Yet not everything that is sent over is school supplies. There are also toys, sometimes lots of them.

For a lot of Iraqi families, toys are not something they can afford to buy. Yet toys transcend borders and cultures; they also help promote goodwill toward the Airmen and Soldiers deployed in Iraq. “Every now and then our teams will hand out some of the toys or clothing that people from back home sent to us for them,” states Iacovone.

And when you see the photos that get e-mailed back home, it is obvious that the toys are a hit with the kids. It’s all about making friends — one toy at a time.

TAG at Operation Jump Start

Table of Contents
Volume 33 Number 1 Staff / Information
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs