By Army Maj. Pat Simon
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 5, 2009 - They call him "Alpha Dog" for staring down a vicious dog, but Army Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Nordby, who serves with the 225th Engineer Brigade, really is more of a gentle giant who oversees construction work being done at various sites throughout the Abu Ghraib area here. Nordby is the Task Force Paxton engineer projects noncommissioned officer in charge for the 225th, responsible for quality assurance and quality control of some 27 projects that run the gamut from patching a hole in a local clinic's bathroom to renovating a huge cold-storage building for Iraq's largest milk factory, which reportedly was destroyed by terrorists in 2006.
"We'll have to knock down the walls and ceiling and basically rebuild it," Nordby said, referring to the 90-day project to gut and restore the building that once housed refrigerators for dairy products.
Nordby, a native of Tioga, La., said money for these projects comes from brigade funds, and that the work will positively affect the lives of many Iraqis.
"It will increase the production level of the factory, which is now at about 20 percent," he said. "That helps the government of Iraq get back on its feet, and it means more milk for the children."
A top civilian engineer advisor who is the liaison official between coalition forces and local contractors agreed that these kinds of projects will help create a viable economy for the people of Iraq.
"The milk factory is No. 1 here and very popular in Baghdad," said Mudhafar Janab, a bilingual-bicultural advisor. "When the work is done here, 100 or more Iraqis will be employed, and it will improve the economy of Abu Ghraib."
At a nearby site, Iraqi civilians are building a school supply warehouse as part of the same program. Abu Ghraib's 153 schools now have no room for storage. Nordby said the warehouse not only will provide relief for the schools, but also will make room for copy machines. It is expected to be fully functional in around three weeks, he added.
Job sites like these take careful oversight to make sure money is spent properly and standards are met. "We're making sure they are doing what they need to do," said Army Lt. Col. Michael Ude, a Hornbeck, La. native. Ude, the brigade's projects officer in charge, works closely with Nordby and other four other inspection teams throughout Baghdad.
Ude said so far he is pleased with the work being done, and that the Iraqis will have something to feel positive about when construction is completed.
"It will show them, 'Hey, look at what your government is doing for you,'" he said. "It is also a good deterrent to terrorist elements, because it shows that progress is being made.
"And when you have 'Alpha Dog' on your side," he added with a smile, "that can only be a plus."
(Army Maj. Pat Simon serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 225th Engineer Brigade public affairs office.)