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Brothers in arms - Woodbery siblings serve their country in Iraq

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Posted: May 17, 2008 6:33 p.m.
Updated: June 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Brothers in arms - Woodbery siblings serve their country in Iraq

Lt. Col. John Woodbery (right) is seen in Iraq with an old friend and fellow soldier SSG Coffman


    Two brothers – both U.S. Army, both lieutenant colonels – have visited Camp Stryker in South Baghdad, Iraq. One was a brigade chaplain. The other is a brigade commander. In 2004, one lived in a tent; the other now stays in a trailer. In 2004, the violence was just starting to increase. In 2008, the violence is starting to lessen.
    Lieutenant Colonel John Woodbery is the commander of the third combat aviation brigade at Camp Stryker. His brother, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Woodbery, is a chaplain with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was brigade chaplain of the first inhabitants of Camp Stryker. He was with First Armor Division as it was extended beyond its original deployment in April 2004.
    “We had to leave the place we just spent the first year at and go to a new place. And that new place was this hole in the ground on the western side of the Baghdad airport that we made into what is now called Camp Striker,” said Matt.
    “The reason why we were extended was because the violence had started to increase in April 2004.”
    Contrast that to today, where over the past year attack frequency has dropped dramatically. John said there were 30 attacks a day when he arrived in his sector. Wednesday (the day he talked to the Herald) he said there were no attacks.
    “It’s incredible. If I could I’d fly every member of the media over here, by and large, they would see the same thing,” said John. “If they were here in June and they were here today, it would be a night and day difference – and it’s all because of the hard work of the soldiers.”
     As for something specific, John said the additional soldiers helped push Al Qaeda cells out of the south side.
“The work we do here is slow and tedious work – and its dangerous work – but the work got done, we’re on a roll, and I think if we continue with this we’ll see continued improvements throughout Iraq,” said John.
Some recent successful projects include establishing a fish market, improving the poultry business and increasing agricultural productivity.
    “You’re seeing the economy take root and begin to thrive,” he said. “That’s what’s going to help these people get back to their way of life. And when they see that kind of success, they are more sensitive to things wanting to come in and disrupt that success. And they don’t want it.”
    They also started the “Sons of Iraq Project” – a neighborhood watch-like program that was so successful in their sector, its being spread throughout Iraq. Local Iraqis are running local checkpoints and taking on their own security for their own neighborhood. Just in the last couple of days, “sons” turned in a number of cashes with hundreds of explosives that could have been used against the soldiers.
 “They are concerned citizens – they come in all shapes and sizes,” John said. “What’s really helped is that the local Sheikdoms have fostered this program as well.”
    Was there one thing he wished the media was picking up on?
    “The remarkable success our soldiers have made,” said John. “When (Iraqis) see the Americans come in and build schools, revitalize the economies, build infrastructure, turn power back on, bring clean running water into town. When they see the American military doing that and when they see the other side is only interested in blowing those things up and taking those things away from them – it’s easy to draw a conclusion.”
    “The soldiers here are doing a magnificent job.  There’s reason for everybody back in the states to be proud of what we’re doing here,” said John. “ I hope you can find a space for that in your article. Sometimes the soldiers don’t get the credit they deserve.”
    “I’m always astounded by the American solder.”

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