Friday, September 12, 2003

At first, Pearce's efforts to get the power and air conditioning running were hampered because it was impossible to know where the wiring and piping ran. But then he found a room full of the center's building plans. From then on, it was easy.

Because the center is the base for much of the new Iraqi civil government the United States is working to build, authorities have been spending generously to get things fixed.

The agency paid for two huge electrical generators that already have been installed, with another larger one on the way, that will fully power the center even when the municipal system is down, as it often is.

Now Pearce works with a team of 25 Iraqis who maintain the facility.

His work getting the convention center in shape has caught the eye of American companies that are under contract to the government to rebuild the country's damaged and decayed utilities and public buildings. A couple already have offered him big money to work on restoring and expanding the Iraqi electrical system once his military service is over.

Pearce, who is married and has three children, the youngest a senior in high school, concedes he's intrigued by the idea of staying on in Iraq.

"The Iraqis are really nice people," he said. "The ones I work with are always inviting me to their homes for dinner, inviting me to weddings. If I did stay, I think it could be great, working here, helping the people rebuild the country."

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