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Copyright 2005 -- Collinsville, Oklahoma

Chamber of Commerce
August 4, 2005
Speaker Just Back From Iraq
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Major Kevin Bierig

Major Kevin Bierig recently returned from Iraq and today gave the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce a sense of what the troops are seeing and feeling there. Bierig (who works for Centralift in Claremore) is a former Marine who has been commanding an Army unit doing heavy construction supporting Marines in Iraq. Kevin jokingly "thanked the taxpayers for a year long vacation" but said the work there was dangerous but important. Major Bierig said the "media reports here are slanted" showing only the glamorous or disasterous events while the day-to-day rebuilding of the infrastructure goes unreported. He reported on the numbers of schools and buildings that had been or were still being renovated. Bierig said that 96% of the kids there had now received their very first polio vaccinations and many adults voted for the first time.

With a population of 26 million in Iraq, Major Bierig said that "95% of the Iraqis want us there, they see the focus of what we are doing and know we are not here to take over". He said instead of the previous state run media, the country now has 10 TV stations and many newspapers. He said the infrastruture is in such poor shape it will take years to fix.

Major Bierig said the troops really appreciate the support they receive from back home. He said he is able to stay in touch with his family via email and weekly phone calls but can't imagine how troops in earlier wars could cope with only receiving a letter about once every 45 days while staying overseas for three years. When asked how we in Collinsville could better show our support for the troops, Kevin suggested the following sample:
* send letters (from school kids for example)
* adopt a specific unit and send them packages (small, simple items are appreciated)
* find out who is not getting mail and find someone to correspond with them

Bierig answered a question about equipment shortages, saying "there were some armor shortages early on" but those had been addressed. He said the military "continues to adapt" to the numerous small fights instead of the large scale battles they once trained for.

T-shirts for the Fair & Founders Day are now available for sale at selected businesses.
The Chamber's Teacher Appreciation Breakfast will be 8am August 16th at the HS Commons. The next regular Chamber meeting will be Sept. 1 at the Library.