Campbell professor serving in Iraq
October 10 2003 by Susan Welch , Campbell Communications

Campbell professor serving in Iraq | Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

Campbell professor serving in Iraq

By Susan Welch Campbell Communications

The orphans in An Nasiriyah suffer from amoebic dysentery resulting from poor hygiene and sanitation. A dangerous stretch of gravel highway used to resupply troops must be confronted almost daily. Age-old tribal and religious differences block efforts to restore peace and provide democratic representation, and the relentless heat can reach 117 degrees in the shade.

These are just some of the challenges facing Col. Michael Larsen, U.S. Army Reserves, on a routine basis. Larsen, who is assigned to Tallil Air Base and Convoy Support Center in southeastern Iraq, was ordered to leave his position as professor of biological sciences at Campbell University to become commander of the 171st Support Group last April. His unit supports British, Italian, Dutch and other multinational forces in five central provinces in Iraq and supplies food, water and fuel to about 500 combat troops in seven locations just below Baghdad.

But that isn't all Larsen's unit does. They meet with local civic leaders and assist in the repair of infrastructure such as sewer, water lines, pumps and roads. They work to supply three orphanages with medicine and other necessities and help to rebuild schools and hospitals.

"We do what needs to be done," Larsen said. "That is why our support of multinational troops is so important. If we are able to logistically support them well and insure their success, it is more likely that more coalition partners such as Turkey, India and South Korea may join the effort. Only then will it enable the U.S. to reduce its forces in Iraq."

Convoy ambushes occur daily, especially near Baghdad, Larsen said. He has been caught in mortar attacks at Hillah and Balad, as well as a small firefight in the Fallujah area west of Baghdad.

"Basically, the enemy, former Ba'ath party loyalists, Fedayeen and others, are terrorists fighting an unconventional war with improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades, car bombs, grenades and small arms fire in ambushes," he said.

Larsen's experience with the Iraqi people has been extremely positive, however. "The people and local leaders are kind, intelligent and hard-working," he said. "Many have vision that has been stifled for decades. Obviously, the impact of the Muslim religion is significant and cultural differences are sometimes a challenge to us as Americans, but overall, we have an excellent relationship with the Iraqi people of our area, and I see us and the coalition being successful."

Larsen's faith in God and the prayers of family and friends have helped to strengthen his resolve. "I do see how God is working through us in this effort," he said. "Living here reminds me of how blessed we are as Americans. It also reminds me of the true costs associated with liberty. In this harsh and desolate land, I appreciate better the fragility of life and the preciousness of all humans in God's sight."

Larsen predicts American forces will remain in Iraq between three and five years in order to defeat the terrorist factions that continue to threaten coalition forces and the Iraqi people, and to assist in rebuilding the economy and the nation that has already begun.

"Some day the people of Iraq need to be able to answer the question, 'How are we better off today compared with life under Saddam?'" he said.

10/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Susan Welch , Campbell Communications | with 0 comments
Filed under:

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.