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Rebuilding Iraq

Civil Affairs officer Maj. Patrick Creed ('93) works with Iraqis to rebuild a nation

Maj. Patrick Creed ('93) takes time out from training at Fort Bragg in April 2006.

Maj. Patrick Creed ('93) takes time out from training at Fort Bragg in April 2006.

Putting life on hold

Maj. Patrick Creed ('93) has responded to the call of duty for his country -- again. In October 2005, Creed received a telegram notifying him that his name had been pulled from the Individual Ready Reserve to serve in Iraq. "I was always wondering if I could get called back to serve on active duty, but it was a shock when I actually opened the letter and read it," says Creed. "After reading it, my hands shook for about an hour. I had less than 30 days to put my job on hold for a year and a half, get my family ready for me being gone, and put my entire life on hold."

The Individual Ready Reserve is the least active part of the Army Reserve. Many soldiers who get out of the Army don't even realize they are still in the IRR. Soldiers in the IRR are not required to report for any training and usually only receive occasional paperwork in the mail. "During this war, certain job specialties started to get critically low, and the Army used the IRR to fill many of these positions," Creed explains.

Intensive training before deployment

Before leaving for "the sandbox," (Iraq) Creed was required to report to Fort Bragg, N.C., for full training. He spent five months at Fort Bragg where he received training for the operations he would complete in Iraq. "This included medical and first aid training, weapons training, convoy operations and vehicle familiarization, radio and communications classes, Iraqi and Arabic language and cultural awareness training, and combat operations, along with many other areas," he says.

Creed ('93) is serving in Diyala Province, Iraq. Here, he stands in the shambles of the late al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's home.

Creed ('93) is serving in Diyala Province, Iraq. Here, he stands in the shambles of the late al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's home.

Serving in Diyala Province

Creed is currently serving in Diyala Province, near the city of Baqubah, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. He is based at Forward Operating Base Warhorse with 1,500 other soldiers. "My base is about three miles from where [Abu Musab] Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, was killed recently," Creed says.

Units at FOB Warhorse engage in combat daily during their missions traveling through Diyala Province and Baqubah. Enemy attacks in Creed's area come more frequently sometimes than others, he says. "The terrorists avoid direct contact with U.S. forces and attack civilians and Iraqi Security Forces instead. When they fight us, they usually do it through a roadside bomb or improvised explosive devices, since they cannot compete with our firepower in direct battle."

The right direction

As a Civil Affairs officer on a three-man team, Creed works with an Army battalion to assist them with their affiliations with Iraqi civilians. "We work with the local civilians, government, Iraqi police and Iraqi army, trying to help them become self-sufficient," says Creed, who attends local city council meetings to point Iraqis in the right direction as they struggle with concepts in a new democracy. Repairs to different parts of the country, re-establishing clinics and working on electricity and water projects also fall under Creed's job description.

"Iraqis aren't all that different from us. ... They have suffered enough, and I want to help them get back on their feet and live peacefully."

A crumbling infrastructure

Iraq suffered for years under Saddam Hussein. He gave loyal areas, mostly Sunni, money and rewards, while he let other areas decay and suffer without even basic water, sewer and electricity, according to Creed. "We're trying to correct this," he adds. "Much of the infrastructure of Iraq looks like it has had no proper maintenance for 20 to 30 years. To make matters worse, the Iraqi people have become a nation of improvisers, which helped them before, but makes reconstruction difficult. We lay new water lines along the streets, and locals dig it up, punch holes in the pipes, and make crude connections to their houses."

Evils of terrorism

Creed has seen some horrific events in Iraq, but "the absolute evil of the terrorists" has hit him the hardest. "They do incredibly terrible things to the local population, and it is unforgettable to see the carnage first hand," he says. While American forces do everything possible to avoid unnecessary damage or injury to civilians, the terrorists will stop buses and execute people simply because they are Shia or Kurds. "They plant bombs on the side of the road and detonate them as we pass by -- but will do this as a crowd of women and children are passing by as well," says Creed. "Images on TV do not convey how terrible it is to see the effects of these attacks or the sounds and smells of the scene. There is no training in the Army that prepares you completely for seeing dead children or decapitated heads in a bag on the side of the road."

Creed points out that "Iraqis aren't all that different from us. The kids are just like those at home, and they always crowd around us whenever we stop our trucks. I have my best days when we get to distribute school supplies or toys to the local kids. ... They have suffered enough, and I want to help them get back on their feet and live peacefully."

The Creeds helped their son, Jeremy, understand dad's deployment to Iraq through Jeremy's stuffed animal, Fish.

The Creeds helped their son, Jeremy, understand dad's deployment to Iraq through Jeremy's stuffed animal "Fish."

Dealing with separation anxiety

While the local Iraqis have been warm and friendly to soldiers trying to help them, nothing can replace being with family. "Being away from my family is the hardest part," Creed affirms. "I hate to see my wife and son sad or struggling to do things at home that I would normally handle." Creed deals with the separation by staying in touch via the Internet and phone calls.

Before departing the U.S., he and his wife, Torrey Weiss Creed ('95) helped their son, Jeremy, understand dad's deployment to Iraq through Jeremy's stuffed animal "Fish." Creed dressed Fish in his "battle rattle" gear and told their son that Fish stowed away in his dad's gear when he left for Iraq. Maj. Creed sends updates about all of the mischief that Fish gets into. Torrey says that Fish has "borrowed" a Humvee, but he is always "very careful and safe."

Creed ('93) and his son, Jeremy

Creed ('93) and his son, Jeremy

In addition to missing their families, Creed and his soldiers also have to deal with the heat. "It was 117 degrees yesterday, and it's going to get hotter," Creed explains. "We drink lots of water and Gatorade, and try to find shade when possible."

An ROTC scholarship at JMU

Creed signed up for the Army when he was 17 and still in high school. At the time, he had no interest in going to college and wanted to do something exciting with his life. "The Army helps you accomplish tasks that seem impossible to complete at first, but you learn to tackle anything with a positive attitude," he says. After three years in the Army, Creed came to JMU on an ROTC scholarship. Since graduating he has served in Panama, Puerto Rico, Honduras and the Middle East. His current tour in Iraq is his longest deployment.

Creed graduated from JMU with a bachelor's degree in history, and he met his wife at JMU. "I will always be grateful for that," he says. While at JMU, Creed was involved in Sigma Nu and ROTC. His favorite memory involves a dare from his wife (then girlfriend) to swim across Newman Lake while she raced him on land. "She says she won, but I remember it differently," Creed laughs.