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GIs have made things better in Iraq

Here's a letter from my son Adam, who is presently serving in Iraq. -- Amy Connell, Sharon

I HAVE been serving in Iraq for over five months now as a soldier in the 2d Battalion of the 503d Airborne Infantry Regiment, otherwise known as the "Rock." We entered the country at midnight on March 26; 1,000 of my fellow soldiers and I parachuted from 10 jumbo jets (known as C17s) onto a cold, muddy field in Bashur in northern Iraq. This parachute operation was the US Army's only combat jump of the war and opened up the northern front. Things have changed tremendously for our battalion since those first cold, wet weeks spent in Bashur. On April 10, our battalion conducted an attack south into the oil rich town of Kirkuk, the city that has since become our home away from home and the focus of our security and development efforts.

Kirkuk is a hot and dusty city of just over a million people. The majority of the city has welcomed our presence with open arms. After five months here, the people still come running from their homes into the 110-degree heat waving at us as our troops drive by on daily patrols of the city. Children smile and run up to shake hands, and in broken English shout, "thank you, mister."

The people of Kirkuk are all trying to find their way in this new democratic environment. Some major steps have been made. A big reason for our steady progress is that the soldiers are living among the people of the city and getting to know their neighbors and the needs of the neighborhoods.

We have also been instrumental in building a new police force. Kirkuk now has 1,700 police officers. The police are now, ethnically, a fair representation of the community as a whole. So far, we have spent more than $500,000 from the former Iraqi regime to repair the stations' electricity and plumbing, to paint each station, and to make them functional places for the police to work.

The battalion has also assisted in reestablishing Kirkuk's fire department, which is now even more efficient than before the war. New water treatment and sewage plants are being constructed, and the distribution of oil and gas are steadily improving. All of these functions were started by our soldiers here in the northern city, and are now slowly being turned over to the newly elected city government.

Laws are being rewritten to reflect democratic principles and a functioning judicial system was recently established to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the rule of law. The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored, and we are a large part of why that has happened.

The fruits of all our soldiers' efforts are clearly visible in the streets of Kirkuk today. There is very little trash in the streets, many more people in the markets and shops, and children have returned to schools. This is all evidence that the work American soldiers are doing is bettering the lives of Kirkuk's citizens.

PFC ADAM C. CONNELL

Kirkuk, Iraq

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