Scouts in U.S., Iraq connect via video

Courtney Olig was surprised at what she learned Saturday.


"I didn't know they liked American football and soccer," said Courtney, a National Hills Elementary School fifth-grader and a Girl Scout with Troop 20164, who participated in a cultural exchange with Iraqi Boy Scouts and Girl Guides via video teleconference at Fort Gordon.

About 35 area scouts met with scouts from Fort Hood, Texas, and Iraq in the hourlong conference, and each group had the opportunity to ask questions.

Lt. Col. John Moehler, of the 4th Infantry Division, which is deployed from Fort Hood to Baghdad, coordinated the event. His wife, Bridgette, and sons, Joseph, 10, and Samuel, 7, live in the Augusta area, where the boys are Scouts.

Wyatt Holder, a Greenbrier Elementary School fifth-grader and member of Pack 620, said he liked participating.

"It seems like a very good way to learn about different cultures," he said.

American children wanted to know what the Iraqis did in their free time. The answer was reading, playing soccer and being involved in Scouting. They asked whether the Iraqis got to travel far from home to camp; the answer was no, mainly because of transportation issues.

Courtney asked one of the toughest questions: "What's it like being in a war zone?"

An Iraqi boy answered, "We feel the war, and because of the American forces, we have improved security."

The Girl Guides and Boy Scouts started in Iraq around 1921 but were banned under Saddam Hussein. They were reinstituted in 2004.

Brig. Gen. Robin Swan, the deputy commanding general of the Multi-National Division Baghdad and an Eagle Scout, spoke at the beginning of the teleconference. He said one of the highlights of his 20 months in Iraq was in October when he saw a parade in Fallujah, the first in the city since 2003.

"The first unit leading the parade was the Fallujah Boy Scouts followed by the Fallujah Girl Scouts," he said. "You represent the future of this great land."