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Rosa Balleros, foreground, and Minerva Garcia put the finishing touches on boxes containing 1,500 CamelBak hydration systems being shipped from a warehouse in San Diego to Baghdad.

Rosa Balleros, foreground, and Minerva Garcia put the finishing touches on boxes containing 1,500 CamelBak hydration systems being shipped from a warehouse in San Diego to Baghdad. (Photo courtesy of CamelBak Products Inc.)

Rosa Balleros, foreground, and Minerva Garcia put the finishing touches on boxes containing 1,500 CamelBak hydration systems being shipped from a warehouse in San Diego to Baghdad.

Rosa Balleros, foreground, and Minerva Garcia put the finishing touches on boxes containing 1,500 CamelBak hydration systems being shipped from a warehouse in San Diego to Baghdad. (Photo courtesy of CamelBak Products Inc.)

The CamelBak hydration system.

The CamelBak hydration system. (Photo courtesy of CamelBak Products Inc.)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Thousands of soldiers in Iraq will soon have a special present under their makeshift Christmas tree: a brand new CamelBak personal hydration system.

A total of 1,500 soldiers — 750 each in the 4th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division — will be getting a three-liter, desert camouflage “ThermalBak 3L” military model, thanks to an anonymous “Santa Claus” and the Petaluma, Calif., corporation that manufactures the devices.

Workers at CamelBak Products LLC began shipping the CamelBaks to Iraq on Thursday, with the goal of getting them to soldiers by Christmas Day, CamelBak spokesman Jonathan Osmundsen said.

CamelBaks are extremely popular with servicemembers. Military officials have indicated that more than 80 percent of all deployed troops in Iraq already have one, Chuck Hunter, CamelBak’s vice president and general manager, said in a Friday telephone interview.

In fact, Army regulations permit military unit commanders to use “discretionary funds” to buy CamelBaks and distribute them as standard issue to their soldiers.

But not all commanders choose to purchase the devices, and many soldiers ante up the money to buy their own CamelBaks, which cost in the neighborhood of $60 at military exchanges, depending on the model.

The donor of the Christmas shipment, who asked to be known only as “Daniel,” said he was inspired to send the CamelBaks after reading a July article in The New York Times that mentioned soldiers were spending their own money to purchase the devices.

“We all know soldiers aren’t generously paid,” Daniel said in a Friday telephone interview.

So after reading the article, “I checked the [CamelBak] Web site, saw what they cost, and said, ‘I can do something about this.’”

Daniel contacted the company and told them he intended to make a large purchase to donate to soldiers. CamelBak proved to be an enthusiastic partner. “They kept lowering the price, so I could keep upping the number” of units he could purchase until it reached 1,000, Daniel said.

Not only did CamelBak officials give Daniel a special discount on the devices, they also decided to donate another 500 units, Hunter, who is a former Navy fighter pilot, said.

And really getting into the spirit of the matter, the executives also decided to pay the cost of shipping. All told, the gift to soldiers is worth about $100,000, Osmundsen said.

Daniel said he made the donation because has strong feelings about the work U.S. servicemembers do, in Iraq and elsewhere.

“I have enormous respect for the members of the military,” he said. “They serve an extraordinary role in our country. If you look back at the history of this country, the U.S. military … has enabled it to stay together, and brought it out on top after several significant threats.

“These soldiers in Iraq are carrying on that tradition.”

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