Team 711 gearing up

Published 7:34 pm Monday, June 14, 2004

By By Arthur McLean
As America's military forces continue battling terrorist forces inside Iraq, many of its forces are also trying to rebuild a country shattered by years of war and a despotic dictatorship.
Atmore's men and women of the 711th Signal Battalion are serving in several different companies, from Company A based in Atmore, to Company D and the Headquarters Company, all serving south of Baghdad.
In addition to their primary role of providing communications support, they are also helping the rebuilding efforts by rebuilding, renovating and improving as many schools as they can.
The men and women of the 711th say there's a way the folks back home can help. As published in the Atmore Advance, Atmore's soldiers overseas say they appreciate the care packages and letters and hope the people back home keep them coming.
Now our troops are asking for a little more, not for themselves, but for the children of Iraq. As they go back to school, they don't have the supplies that American school children are accustomed to using: the basics, pens, pencils and paper, said Linda Gates, wife of Billy Gates who is serving in Iraq with the 711th.
"I know this is near and dear to his heart because he teaches school in Atmore," Gates said. "When he asked me to do this, I knew I couldn't say no."
Gates is leading the charge in starting a drive called "Team 711" where she is asking for donations of school materials to send to the school children in Iraq. Gates is partnering with the southeastern arm of Volunteer America on the project.
Volunteer America is working with Gates to provide the shipping costs for sending the items to Iraq and contacting schools in Baldwin County about sponsoring a school in Iraq.
Gates will soon be approaching schools in Escambia County to do the same thing. "There are about 4,000 schools in this area (of Iraq) so we can't help them all but we want to help as many as we can," Gates said.
"To the children over there, a book bag, paper and pens is like getting a computer over here, because they have so little," she said.
Local family readiness and support groups in the area are also planning to help with the drive. Gates and her partners have also contacted Congressman Joe Bonner about having the supplies hitch a ride on a military transport heading to Iraq in the near future.
The Atmore Advance has agreed to become a drop-off point for supplies from the public. Supplies needed most are: pens, pencils, paper, crayons, glue, scissors and book bags. Used but in good condition book backs are acceptable, Gates said. Three-ring binders cannot be accepted.
For more information about donating either supplies or money to purchase school supplies, contact Linda Gates: 368-3427, or 888-287-6459 or the Volunteers of America Southeast: 251-666-4431.
Business hours for the Atmore Advance office are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.

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