Back To School In Baghdad

Iraqi girl in Baghdad shows of crayons given by U.S. military. CBS

Like proud parents soldiers of the 1st Armored Division went to school registration today, and they made their families back home a part of it, reports CBS' Allen Pizzey.

"This is a gift from my family and our families back in the States," said one soldier handing out school supplies.

It may only be notebooks, but small things count in Iraq. Some schools were damaged in the war; many more were neglected during Saddam Hussein's regime. Getting them ready for kids to start the school year became the focus of the 1st Armored's goals.

So far soldiers have helped fix more than half of the 165 schools in their area of Baghdad.

"Basically fixing the walls, and anti-fungal treatment, and of course the major issue was electricity," explained Lt. Col. Peter Jones.

But it's not just about neglected buildings.

Local counselor Akram Yacoub shrugged off death threats to work with the American troops.

"Those gentlemen always keep on visiting us, trying to solve any problem which we get," he said.

In return, the soldiers are treated to Iraqi hospitality. How many people on the streets would offer that is still an open question.

Major John Frisbie believes his men can improve security simply by giving people a reason not to shoot at them.

There's one clear indicator that rebuilding efforts are paying off. Intelligence officers say the price of hiring a gunman or bomber to attack U.S. troops has gone up from $1,000 to $5,000 dollars.

And the pool of future recruits is shrinking.

And that's another reason the soldiers got their families involved in the schools project.

"I know from the sentiment that I get from my folks and my wife…is that there's a lot of hostility out here," said Capt. Casey Randall. "The fact of the matter is that there is a whole lot of good things that are going on every day."

So when today's friends become tomorrow's leaders they'll remember who helped bring color back into their lives.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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