Iraqi scouts get a visit from Santa Claus, played by civilian contractor Joseph Lord, during a holiday-themed scouting event on Victory Base Complex, Dec. 20, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante.
VICTORY BASE COMPLEX
— Cries of delight filled the scouting compound here when Iraqi boy and girl scouts received a surprise visit and presents from Santa Claus during a holiday-themed scouting event, Dec. 20.
The Victory Base Council military and civilian volunteers gather once a week with local Iraqi children to participate in arts and crafts, team building events and other scout related activities, but this week had a special Christmas flavor. Children decorated paper Christmas trees, played kick ball and worked on their knot tying skills while awaiting the arrival of Saint Nick.
When Santa, played by civilian logistics contractor Joseph Lord, arrived, the children flocked around him, pulling his beard and begging to hear his jolly cry of “Ho, ho, ho.” Santa then posed for pictures with all the children and they received gift bags with school supplies, stuffed animals and treats.
Scout leaders were approached by Iraqi parents about introducing their children to the magic of Santa Claus, said Lt. Cmdr. Vincent Garcia, force generation officer, Iraqi Assistance Group and volunteer with the Victory Base Scouts.
The hope was not only to show the Iraqi children an important part of the culture of their American counterparts, but to encourage holiday spirit. “We’re hoping to capture the feelings of the season; of giving, goodwill and friendship,” said Lt. Col. Carl Schwartz, economic analyst, C5 Corps Assessment Cell, Multi-National Corps – Iraq and the trip leader for the holiday event.
The Victory Base Council scouting program is working to jump-start scouting in Iraq, Garcia said. The hope is to create a self-sustaining, Iraqi-run program which can eventually be internationally recognized, he explained.
Working with the Council gives Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and contractors the chance to interact first hand with the Iraqi youth and adds an additional dimension of humanity to their deployment. “We’re all ambassadors for our own countries and we can learn from each other,” Schwartz said.
(By Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)