ADA — Lt. Col. Russell “Rusty” Livingston gave a presentation about an unofficial mission he participated in at Tall Abtah, Iraq to an audience Wednesday at the Central Church of Christ in Ada. Livingston delivered a slide presentation and video depicting soldiers, vehicles damaged and decimated by improvised explosive devices, development of a seven-point training program for preparation of soldiers on patrol, and scenes from a school where young Iraqi students received supplies.
Members of Central Church of Christ, along with other churches from 25 states and three countries, donated money to buy supplies given to 400 Iraqi school children. When the convoy carrying 64 volunteers from the 71st Core Support Battalion and the 101st Sustainment Brigade in an unsanctioned mission arrived at the school, the students were screaming “USA, USA,” according to Livingston.
“The people of Iraq have no concept of freedom. They don’t even have radios,” he said.
“We delivered 185 boxes loaded with supplies to children that have rudimentary desks in a two-story building our troops built three years ago. There were no pictures on the walls, no study aids like we see in America,” Livingston said.
“We held out about a fourth of the supplies for the mayor of Tall Abtah to give to families with little girls who are not allowed to go to school,” he said.
Livingston was part of a team effort to develop a training program to reduce the risk of death, injury and vehicle damage from encounters with improvised explosive devices. The seven point program generates increased awareness of vulnerabilities, communications, IED recognition, vehicle quality assurance, intelligence of the activities in areas to be traveled, the rules of engagement and escalation of force, battle drills, interval spacing of vehicles and other safety issues. The training, where implemented, has reduced fatalities by 37 percent and is gaining support for implementation throughout all military branches.
Livingston graduated from East Central University before joining the military and has given 20 years of service to the country doing three tours of duty abroad.
The supply delivery was an opportunity for Livingston and the other volunteers to be used by God half-way around the world, Livingston said.