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Iraq War Veteran Meets With Students, Recounts Experiences

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2004 – As her unit moved toward Baghdad, liberated Iraqis "were tearing down things in celebration of the fall of the regime," Army 1st Lt. Emily Woolsey, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, recalled during a Feb. 26 visit with seventh- and eighth-graders.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army 1st Lt. Emily Woolsey, of the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky., describes captured Iraqi military equipment during a Feb. 26 visit with students at Franklin Middle School in Chantilly, Va. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The 24-year-old West Point graduate had recently returned stateside after a yearlong deployment in Iraq. Woolsey spoke about her experiences with Franklin Middle School students in Chantilly, Va., a school she had attended in 1992 and 1993.

Woolsey told students she performed military intelligence duties first with an aviation battalion and later at an MI company while serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. She recounted tales of sandstorms, convoying across miles of dusty, open desert, 130-degree heat, Spartan living conditions, countless hours of work, and soldiers' bravery and comradeship.

When her aviation unit moved through liberated cities and villages en route to Baghdad, Woolsey recalled that the local people had "torn down posters (of Saddam Hussein)" and other symbols of his regime.

Saddam had already fled by the time her unit reached the outskirts of Baghdad, Woolsey noted.

Woolsey's unit paused south of Baghdad at an airfield for a few weeks until being posted further north, she said. Later, she said she took a new a job with a military intelligence company.

The lieutenant remembers mail call as one of the soldiers' most-anticipated events in Iraq. "That's what got us through every day," she remarked.

Woolsey also recalled visiting local Iraqi cities and villages "to see how we could help them rebuild their schools, fix their roads, get them water and electricity."

Although she recalled going without a shower for two weeks, Woolsey said she wouldn't trade her Iraq experiences for anything in the world. "I'm really, really proud of all the work I did," she said.

Franklin's principal, Michelle Peyser, said the school had adopted Woolsey and her unit during the Iraq deployment, noting that students had sent cards, letters and gifts to the lieutenant and other 101st soldiers.

Woolsey thanked family, friends and the school for their support, noting, "We wouldn't have gotten through without all of you."

Peyser said Woolsey's visit to Franklin was an educational experience for today's students as well as a homecoming. The lieutenant had brought along some captured Iraqi military equipment, to include a uniform shirt and helmet, for the students to look over.

"I think it's really great what Emily is doing for our country," Kimberly Sprout, a seventh-grader at Franklin, noted after Woolsey's visit. It was, the 12-year-old added, "a great experience to be able to hear her and see her and learn all about what she did."

Sprout said she'd "never understood" what U.S. forces were doing in Iraq before Woolsey's visit. "Now, I have a clearer description of what they're doing," she said.

Woolsey's father, Tim Woolsey, a math teacher at Franklin, noted he's very proud of his daughter's service and was happy to welcome her home safe and sound. "We're extremely proud of her service for our country she did a great job," he said.

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