Fixing Iraq’s Water

Ryan Gallucci’s Bronze Star citation contains the usual words of praise found in such testaments to good service – that he was an “integral member” of the team, that he was “instrumental” in accomplishing the mission, that he “remained calm and cool” in dangerous situations, and that his “quick actions” helped win the day.

But another phrase stands out; something you don’t often see in a war-time citation. The wording says much about what Army Reserve Sgt. Gallucci was doing in Iraq, and what he and his six-member Civil Affairs team was trying to accomplish.

The citation reads matter-of-factly _ yet poignantly _ that the University of Rhode Island junior “alleviated human suffering.”

Gallucci and the other five members of his Civil Affairs team spent their 11 months and eight days in Iraq living and working in towns and cities near the Iranian border.

For a while, their safe house was guarded by Kurdish troops. “They fought hard,” Gallucci said. “They were motivated, and they protected us well.” But most times, the team members protected each other. “Basically, the six of us watched out for each other,” he said. “You are a soldier first and given a weapon for a reason.”

That may be, but the team’s best weapon may have been the way they were able to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people with their helping hands.

Each member of the team, led by a major, had a specific job each time they entered one of the six major metropolitan areas and dozens of villages in their AOR (area of responsibility).

One team member was assigned to get the schools up and running and making sure the teachers got on the provincial government’s payroll. Another had the same job for municipal government. And so on.

Gallucci, then holding the rank of specialist, was the utility man _ utility as in public works.

Take his work in the city of Khanaqin as an example.

Gallucci’s Civil Affairs team was based in Khanaqin for nearly six months of their 11-month deployment.

“The city had basically been left to its own devices by Saddam (Hussein),” Gallucci said. “They hadn’t had clean, running water for 17 years.”

Gallucci got it for them.

Using Iraqi contractors, Gallucci built a water pumping station and three new wells, laid about $20,000 worth of new pipe and tracked down generators to help run the pumping station, including one that came via Egypt.

There’s a reason the Civil Affairs team lived in the city among the people and not at some big Army compound. The members experienced what the populace experiences, allowing them to better come to grips with what the people needed most.

Or as more succinctly put by Gallucci: “I had a personal, vested interest in seeing that the water was sanitary.”

And that the streets were clean: “We also built a new landfill outside the city and put the workers to work picking up the garbage. We also got them paid.”

In all, his citation reads, Gallucci was responsible for approximately $4.7 million in public works projects during his deployment.

Gallucci, 24, a native of Warwick, R.I., joined the Army Reserve soon after graduating from high school as a way, he admits, of bringing some discipline to his life and to help pay his college tuition. His unit was called up in January 2003.

Once in Iraq, the team, although really on its own, worked under the titular command of the 1st of the 10th _ the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the 4th Army Division’s 1st Battalion of the 10th Cavalry Regiment.

In all, Gallucci was gone for 15 months. He returned to URI for summer classes in 2004, and as a full-time student that fall. Although listed as a junior, he is taking a double load and hopes to graduate in June.

He thinks _ and hopes _ America can be successful in Iraq.

“The Iraqi people may not want the same type of democracy we have, but they want their freedom,” he said.

Gallucci doesn’t plan an Army career.

“I plan on just competing my enlistment through 2007,” Gallucci said. “I’ve had my fun.”