Category: Archive

It’s St. Patrick’s Day in Baghdad too

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Master Sergeant Brian O’Connors, who is with the 43rd in the Baghdad area – he can’t say precisely where – told the Echo that corned beef and cabbage was definitely on the unit’s menu for Friday.
And hopefully a relative calm will the order of the day too.
In a phone interview from the Iraqi capital Tuesday, O’Connors said that he would have no shortage of comrades with which to exchange Irish greetings on March 17.
“About thirty to forty percent of us in the 43rd have family ties to Ireland,” O’Connors told the Echo.
The 43rd, a National Guard unit based in Warwick, Rhode Island, has been in Iraq since last October.
While O’Connor is presently based in Baghdad, his duties as an intelligence analyst means that he must travel to the brigade’s battalions, which are stationed around the country.
O’Connors, a former full time soldier, joined the National Guard in 1981. In addition to Iraq he has served in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
His wife Stephanie is also in the Guard – she is a lieutenant – but is currently back at the family home in Colorado.
O’Connors runs a team of half a dozen brigade members. Their job, to say the least, is crucial to the success of the U.S. mission and the safety of those in uniform, U.S., coalition and Iraqi.
“We try to track what the bad guys are doing and what effect this will have on the battalions in the brigade,” O’Connors said.
O’Connors, who has relatives in Kerry and other family links to Cork and Roscommon, sees some comparison between the situation in Iraq and Northern Ireland during the troubles.
But there are significant differences, he said.
“There wasn’t so much random and indiscriminate killings of civilians even in the worst days of the troubles in the 1970s. The terrorists have very little regard for human life here,” he said.
That said, O’Connors said that large areas of Iraq had achieved a degree of normality not generally reflected in press coverage.
“There’s been a lot of progress. There’s large sections of Baghdad and other parts of the country now controlled by the Iraqi army and police and where businesses are open and kids are going to school,” he said.
O’Connors, who has passed through Shannon airport several times in recent years, said that U.S. and Iraqi government forces were having to deal with two kinds of enemy.
“Some of the insurgents here simply don’t want any foreign presence. But there are also those who see chaos as its own end,” he said.
The 43rd will be in Iraq until its year-long tour ends in October but O’Connors is getting a few days leave in May when his son is getting married.
He also has two daughters, both married, and at the tender age of 45 is already a grandfather.
“I started young,” he said with a laugh.
His parents, Patrick and Lorraine, meanwhile, live in a Rhode Island town that would look great on a map of Iraq. It’s called Harmony.
St. Patrick’s Day will be another day on the job. But O’Connors is looking forward to his dinner.
“The food here is actually quite good,” he said.
But there’s no beer to be had.
“We’ll be drinking coffee, or maybe Gatorade,” he said.
But it will be a special day nonetheless.
“After all, said O’Connors, “our commanding officer is Brigadier General Kevin McBride.

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