Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Besides supervising the slow reconstruction of the city’s battered utility grid and street network, the soldiers also spend time refereeing disputes between citizens of different ethnic backgrounds.

“It gets a little irritating at times, because all you do is listen to people’s problems,” Ruiz said.

“Helping these people is a different kind of feeling,” he added. “You can see yourself making a difference.”

One of the biggest problems was simply getting the Iraqi bureaucrats to do their jobs. Even upper-level officials had been conditioned by years of dictatorship to do nothing without orders.

After weeks of frustration, Wright and Capt. Mike Ohman, 27, said they discovered that memos — preferably bearing an official-looking seal — usually will prod an Iraqi civil servant into action.

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