02/15/04 — Soldier focused on preparing Iraq for eventual self-rule

View Archive

Soldier focused on preparing Iraq for eventual self-rule

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on February 15, 2004 2:01 AM

Capt. Adlai Wood of Goldsboro is one of the U.S. Army soldiers who have spent months helping to rebuild Iraq so the country can establish its own government.

He is stationed with the 1-37 Armored, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. There are around 500 soldiers in his battalion, which is made up of both active-duty and National Guard troops. His first operational deployment was to Iraq in April of 2003. He has been stationed on Baghdad Island, which is three miles north of the city.

He is an operational planner for the battalion. He plans weapon searches.

The battalion's main goal is to rebuild the country, including ensuring the schools are open, rebuilt, secure and full of supplies; bridges are rebuilt; trash and sewage problems are handled; and electricity is restored. The war caused damage to many buildings, but much more was caused by the Iraqis looting the buildings for pipes and other items, said Wood.

There are over 70 schools in his zone, which includes all of northern Baghdad and the surrounding countryside to the north. He said the Iraqi electric structure is very bad and some of the generators are over 35 years old. The poverty is more extreme than he has ever seen or imagined.

While cleaning up the zone, the battalion is also finding a lot of weapons, including mortar rounds, artillery rounds and surface-to-air missiles. Wood said they used to locate the weapons by conducting raids and searches, but that has changed over the past few months.

Iraqi nationals are bringing the weapons to the soldiers, which indicates a big mind shift. They are all on the same team and want the country to be secure enough for the Iraqis to regain control of it, he added.

Explosive devices are being placed on the side of the roads by anti-coalition forces from inside and outside Iraq, and they have the technology to blow them up at the exact time a U.S. vehicle passes by. Wood said the coalition troops are getting better at spotting the devices, and his brigade has caught two people who placed them.

If the people responsible are found, the soldiers interrogate them. They are only found guilty if there is overwhelming evidence, because if they are wrongly convicted and detained, it would turn some Iraqi nationals that are friends of the U.S. into enemies, added Wood.

He said most of the Iraqis are happy to have U.S. soldiers there helping to improve their quality of life.

"It keeps getting better every day," he said. "There is light at the end of the tunnel."

Wood recalled eating with one Iraqi family that offered hospitality even though they probably could not afford it.

He said that in the past six months, the Iraqi police have begun patrolling more on the streets. The new Iraqi Army is also being established, and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps is embedded with the U.S. soldiers. They are training with them and will eventually be self-sufficient, added Wood.

He said the soldiers' morale continues to be very high, and everyone is still focused on the task at hand. They are seeing a lot of good things happen.

Wood, 36, arrived in Goldsboro on Jan. 28 and returned back to Iraq on Friday. He had no contact with his wife, Ann, or his 13-month-old son, Adlai Jr., for the first four months of his deployment. He now has both a phone and e-mail available.

He said the hardest thing for his family is not really knowing what is happening. Four soldiers have been killed in his battalion and 13 in the entire brigade.

The support from the community has been tremendous, and the soldiers know they are supported back home. He expects 3,000 pounds of school supplies to be sent from Georgia to Iraq soon.

He will be there until the authority is transferred to an incoming unit, which should be sometime between April and June. He will then return to his base in Friedberg, Germany.