By Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Multi-National Division-Center Public Affairs Office
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq– Staff Sgt. Frank Pflieger, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of force protection, stood amidst a crew of smiling Iraqi faces huddled around a large worktable covered with polka-dotted gift bags and boxes full of toys.
Pflieger prepared to hand out gifts to his crew as a thank-you for the job the men accomplish each day inside Camp Victory.
"I wanted to do something to give back to the people of Iraq and you guys because you work so hard for me," Pflieger told his men.
Pflieger, of Jacksonville, Fla., is assigned to the Camp Victory Mayor's Cell and in charge of two force protection crews. This is Pflieger's second tour in Iraq. Working directly with the Iraqi people has given him a whole new sense of appreciation for their culture and way of living.
"The first time I was here, I ran the roads, so I didn't get to interact a whole lot with the people of Iraq," he said.
Pflieger's first deployment began in 2003, shortly after the initial invasion. The stability and peace that exists now was nowhere present during that 18-month tour. As a convoy escort, his mission forced him to move through the streets with determination and speed. This sometimes meant pushing Iraqi vehicles out of the way to avoid danger.
Nearly five years later, Pflieger is serving his second tour in Iraq. When he heard he would work alongside the people of a country once riddled with violence, Pflieger admitted the idea made him a little apprehensive. This was especially so, since their work would be conducted inside the walls of his own base.
The first of Pflieger's two crews is 20-some Iraqi men responsible for filling between 500 and a thousand sandbags a day. The sandbags are used to reinforce bunkers and protect windows. Their work is visible all around Camp Victory, where neatly-stacked sandbags fill gaps between T-walls and surround transient tents where service members sleep.
His second crew takes charge of moving and placing 20-foot, concrete walls that border the base and encircle the buildings within it.
"I didn't know what to expect when I came on this tour. The last time I didn't have the opportunity I have now," he said.
Pflieger calls this deployment "the experience of a lifetime." The longer he works with these men, the more Pflieger realizes they're just regular citizens of a country they love.
In order to thank his men for their hard work, Pflieger contacted his parents, wife and friends and asked for gifts for his men's children and families.
"I didn't expect the response that I got," said Pflieger of the gifts. "I thought they would send [things] over, but it grew to a much larger thing."
Soon, word-of-mouth spread to other relatives and more friends. Pflieger received donations from complete strangers. Boxes of dolls, racecars, clothing and diapers came to him over a period of several weeks. In all, about 30 different people sent a box or more each.
"He [is] very good to us, said Ninos Emanuel Esha, a crew supervisor and father of a little girl named Venessa.
"This last thing that he's done for us, for our kids, for our families; we are very appreciative for him. It increases confidence between us and the Americans."
Pflieger gave back as he has seen his crews share with him. His workers will often bring food from home and cook it in a makeshift grill. They share their local cuisine of lamb over rice and beans with Pflieger, along with stories of their families and kids.
"It's actually been outstanding," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better crew or better supervisor. The relationship I have with them is just beyond anything I could expect," said Pflieger.
This work, Second deployment gives Soldier new appreciation for Iraqi people, by MSG Michel Sauret, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.