Pennsylvania National Guard soldier Lt. Col. Greg Markert, 2414 Logistical Transition Team leader, hands a Christmas present to a student of the Assyrian Christian School of Kirkuk, Iraq, Dec. 15. The U.S. Soldiers were invited by their Iraqi counterparts with the Iraqi Army's 2nd Brigade, 4th Division to attend the event held Dec. 15. The presents were provided by employers, friends, and family of two Pennsylvania National Guardsmen, members of the 2414 LTT, who are attached to the Pennsylvania National Guard�s Headquarters Company, 213th Area Support Group, Allentown, Pa. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson, 115th MPAD)
By Army Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson
115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
KIRKUK, Iraq – The 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division invited coalition forces to a Christmas party, at an Assyrian Christian School in Kirkuk, Iraq, Dec. 15.
Representing approximately 2 percent of the population here, according to military officials, the underlining theme of this year’s celebration was ethnic and religious diversity. “Kirkuk is a good place to be for Christians…a place where all ethnic groups, Arab, Kurd, Turkman, and Christian, are living in peace,” said the priest of the Christian school. He also ministers to 2-4 IA Soldiers who operate from the Iraqi Army Base K-1 in Kirkuk.
The soldiers, both IA, and CF with the 2414 Logistics Transition Team at K-1, came armed with presents which they passed out to the children who were clothed in various ethnic dress to represent the cultures that are striving to bring back some semblance of normality to this ethnic diverse area of northeastern Iraq. “We want to live and work with our neighbors in harmony…as Iraqis,” Maj. Zyad Junaid Omar, 2-4 IA Civil Affairs Officer said. Zyad, whose father is Arab and mother Turkman, said that he invites CF soldiers along to show Iraqis that, “Americans are good people that want to help.” He also wanted the Iraqi public to see how well the IA and CF work together.
“Maj. Zyad is a patriot in the true sense,” Lt. Col. Greg Markert, 2414 LTT said. “He wants to make a difference. He is not concerned about the ethnic background of these children. He’s concerned about Iraq’s future…which they represent,” Markert said.
The gifts that the soldiers handed out were contributed by employers, friends, and family of Pennsylvania Guardsmen Sgt. 1st Class Ken “Gunny” Ganiszewski, 2414 LTT, and Markert, both of Philadelphia. “What started out as a suggestion, snowballed into 200 packages full of toys, candy, blankets…the response has been tremendous,” said the former Marine.
This was just one of the several on-going civil affairs programs run by the 2-4 IA’s CA team. “We’re honored to be a part of their program,” said Markert. “These children are the future of Iraq, they are the most important equation in our mission here.”
“I fought as a marine in the Gulf War against some of these soldiers that I am now mentoring,” Gunny said. “This brotherhood we’ve formed is making a positive impact on the children of Iraq…its future.” He said that both soldiers agree that what they are doing has a larger impact than “kicking doors down and brandishing weapons.” He underlined the importance of getting involved by saying, “that child that is gifted a pair of shoes may return home and convince a relative not to place an IED out on the road. Or if he sees someone trying to hurt an IA or CF Soldier, he’ll report it.”
The LTT team has 10 members. They hail from the 240th Quartermaster’s Company, 16th Sustainment Brigade from Bamburg, Germany; 13th Combat Service Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Ft. Benning, Ga.; and the National Guard’s Headquarters Company, 213th Area Support Group, Allentown, Pa. All of the U.S. Soldiers are attached to the 213th, currently headquartered at Logistical Support Activity, Anaconda, Iraq.
“We’ve come from all over the U.S. and Germany to form this team. We’ve since become a cohesive family, together with our adoptive family, meaning our fellow Soldiers with the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Brigade, 4th Division.” Markert said.