Father, Son Reunite in Baghdad
By Joy Kress
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT BELVOIR, Va., March 31, 2004 "You could have pushed me over with a feather."
That was Roger McCrady's reaction when he stepped off a plane Jan. 23 at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq to find his youngest son waiting for him on the ground.
McCrady, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant and chief of physical security for Defense Logistics Agency's headquarters at Fort Belvoir, never imagined that the first thing he would see when he arrived to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority would be his son's smile.
Army Pfc. Brian McCrady had been stationed in Tikrit, Iraq, since July 2003 as a combat medic with the 690th Medical Company (Ground Ambulance), part of the 56th Medical Evacuation Battalion under the 44th Medical Command.
Although Brian already had worked his way through most of the northern part of the country, he had never made it to Iraq's capital.
"I asked my platoon leader if I could arrange a ride down to Baghdad to meet up with my dad," Brian said. "They got me a ride, but, unfortunately, I got to Baghdad a few days before my dad was supposed to arrive."
With time on his hands, Brian was able to stay with the 28th Combat Support Hospital's soldiers for sleeping quarters and spent the rest of his days exploring Baghdad's Green Zone, the area that encompasses CPA headquarters along with other official buildings.
In his exploration, Brian was able to find the colonel with whom his father would work at the CPA. With the colonel's help, as well as by navigating his way through the chain of command, he found out the exact time the elder McCrady would arrive.
"I found a way to (the airport), and when my dad's plane landed, I was right there to greet him," Brian said. "There wasn't a welcoming party for him, so it was actually a good thing I was there and could help show him around," the young soldier added.
"It was so great to see him there," Roger said. "I couldn't believe how well he networked himself through the area. By the end of the day, I had introduced him to generals and ambassadors."
The younger McCrady knew it was a chance of a lifetime to be with his father in a combat zone, but he said to see Baghdad was an equally impressive opportunity.
"I'm glad I got to see a different side of this war," Brian said. "Not only did I see 28th CSH, which was the best medical unit in Iraq at that time, I've seen what the business and policy side of this war looks like. In Tikrit, Kirkuk, Balad, Tuz (and) Halawijh, you see poverty and barren land. But in Baghdad, it's like you are in a real civilization again. Many people from my unit who had been in Iraq almost a year never got this experience."
With this coordinated chain of events, both McCradys were able to walk around the Green Zone together, stroll through a former regime palace and chat over cups of coffee in the Green Zone coffee house in what is now a new Iraq.
Seeing his son in Baghdad was a great relief, Roger said. Also, he said, knowing that his son would return to the United States in a month was encouraging. But Roger's job was just beginning.
Named the deputy security director for the Department of Defense Program Management Office at the CPA, Roger's long hours spent on security policy to build a sovereign nation would not be easy business.
"Seeing Brian in person and knowing he was OK was a great personal relief to me," Roger said. "Knowing his time here in Iraq was almost over and he was going home enabled me to focus on the job at hand and to get busy building a security program for the PMO.
"PMO is the organization tasked with rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure," he explained. "We have the challenge of completing over 2,300 construction projects over the next few years. A common saying in PMO is, 'There can be no security without reconstruction, and there can be no reconstruction without security.'
"We have a huge challenge here," he continued. "If we do our job right, we will change this part of the world for years to come, possibly forever. I also have a feeling that if we don't get it right now, we will definitely regret it in the future."
Brian returned with his company to Fort Benning, Ga., in early March. Roger should return to the United States and to DLA headquarters sometime in July.
DLA provides supply support, and technical and logistics services to the U.S. military services and several federal civilian agencies. Headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., the agency is the one source for nearly every consumable item, whether for combat readiness, emergency preparedness or day-to-day operations.
(Joy Kress is assigned to Defense Logistics Agency public affairs.)