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Face of Defense: Army Engineer Hopes He’s Making a Difference

By A. Al Bharani
Special to American Forces Press Service

BASRA, Iraq, Dec. 3, 2007 – Army Maj. Rick Smith’s job includes coordinating and building relationships between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the British army.

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Army Maj. Rick Smith (left) poses at the Basrah, Iraq, area office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with coworker Tia Chandler and visiting Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Dorko, commander of the Gulf Region Division. Photo by A. Al Bharani

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

“Relationships are key in my position,” he said. “Each day is always busy."

Smith is executive officer and operations officer of the Basra Area Office of the Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region South district as well as the liaison officer for Multinational Division Southeast.

Smith said his daily activities typically consist of coordinating and dealing with the civil-military operations section of the British military, which deals with reconstruction.

Smith, a North Dakota National Guardsman now into the eighth month of a one-year tour in Iraq, said life is very different in Basra from at home, where so many things are taken for granted. “Going through the day wondering when the sirens are going to go off, signaling a rocket attack,” he ruminated. “Just seeing something green, like trees or grass.

“My experience in Iraq is an experience I will never have again in my life,” he said. “Each day a person wakes up, they choose their attitude for that day. I try to wake up each day and make a difference in people’s lives, even if it is just a smile.

“It is difficult being 9,000 miles from my kids, but it is only for one year, and the difference we make here each year will last a lifetime,” said Smith, who has two children, Sidney, 7, and Jordan, 11, and who works at home as a district sales manager with Coca-Cola.

“Our slogan for our unit is ‘Making a Difference,’” he said.

Smith said the Iraqi people are good natured and deserve a better way of life, and expressed hope that he and other coalition military and civilian personnel are making things better.

“The thing I feel the proudest of is seeing the smiling faces of the kids, the waving, giving us the thumbs up as we drive by, waving at the helicopter as it flies overhead,” Smith said. “The people I have met, the smiles, the kind words.”

(A. Al Bharani is a public affairs specialist with the Gulf Region South district, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Iraq.)

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Related Sites:
Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Maj. Rick Smith, whose jobs include serving as liaison officer with the British, and others pose with then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in this May 19, 2007, photo. Courtesy photo  
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