Rebuilding Infrastructure Key to Success in Terror War
By Mitch Frazier
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sep. 12, 2004 It will take more than bullets to win the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan; it will take new schools, power plants and infrastructure, a U.S. general said here Sept. 11.
"Never underestimate the importance of what each of us does here," said Army Brig. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of the corps' Gulf Region Division, an agency charged with overseeing the multibillion-dollar Iraq reconstruction effort. "The men and women in uniform and the civilians with them are counting on us to win, and winning for us is delivering projects."
Bostick and his team of nearly 300 civilian engineers and program managers located across the country oversee nearly 650 U.S.-led reconstruction projects now under way. That number is slated to increase, as more than 1,800 projects are planned for start before the year's end.
"Many men and women in uniform and civilians have given their lives here and in Afghanistan. Their deaths will not be in vain," Bostick said. "We must deliver these projects; we must win."
The general gave the keynote address at an hour-long tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The event brought back the tears, anger and passion felt around the world in the wake of the attacks.
"It was upsetting," said Beth Hilliard, a 28 year-old quality assurance specialist and mother of two from Savannah, Ga., who now serves as a program analyst with the corps in Baghdad. "Going back to that moment when it happened on 9/11 and thinking about how difficult it must still be for the victims' families was tough."
Hilliard, clad in camouflage and a hardhat, stood alongside a soldier holding an American flag from the second story of the corps' headquarters during the ceremony, a scene presented in honor of the flag-draped gaping hole in the Pentagon seen shortly after the attack.
Like millions of Americans, Hilliard can recall in vivid detail where she was and what she was doing at the time of the attack.
"I was driving to Fort Stewart (Ga.) in a government car when I heard the reports on the radio," she said. "All I could think of was what was next, and if it was even a good idea to go to a military installation. I thought the first one was just an accident, but after I heard the second had hit and it was definitely terrorism, I was really scared," she said.
While the fright quickly vanished, her will to help continues today. "I just wanted to do whatever I could to help," she said. "I knew we were doing a lot of great work for the Iraqi people, and I wanted to come and be a part of the successes and make a difference."
As a member of the corps' Restore Iraq Electricity Directorate, that difference for Hilliard is measured one power station and one megawatt at a time. Since beginning its work in the country nearly a year ago, the corps has added an additional 1,621 megawatts to the Iraqi national grid, enough to service 4.8 million Iraqi homes and boost electricity far past pre-war levels.
"Make no mistake about it; what we do here in Iraq and what our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan are doing will have a huge impact on winning the war on terrorism," Bostick said. "We must win."
(Mitch Frazier is deputy public affairs chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division.)