Memories of Yuba River help man through Iraq tour
One of the first things that Sgt. Douglas MacDuff plans to do now that he’s home after a tour of duty in Iraq is swim in the South Yuba River.
“There are certain things that will get you through,” the Grass Valley resident said, talking about his year-long assignment in Iraq’s western Al Anbar Province with the 1114th Transportation Company of the National Guard. “One of them is sitting in the (Yuba) river.”
MacDuff left Iraq on July 9 and spent a week in Texas before flying to Bakersfield last week, where his family picked him up. Two other soldiers from Nevada County returned with him, he said. Spc. Matt Maslov and Sgt. Sean Belmap served in the maintenance division of MacDuff’s platoon.
MacDuff said he was proud of the work that his unit accomplished during the past year, moving cargo and patrolling some of Iraq’s most dangerous roads.
“We did a damn fine job,” MacDuff said.
His time in Iraq had its setbacks. At the end of May his unit lost a soldier when a truck was hit by an improvised explosive device on the road outside of Haditha, northwest of Baghdad. The soldier, Sgt. Rhys Klasno of Texas, would have turned 21 this month.
“He was a great kid,” MacDuff said, extending his wrist across the picnic table to show two bracelets engraved with the names of Klasno and another soldier from his platoon who killed in November, SFC Rudy Salcido. In both cases, MacDuff was not on the convey when the bombs exploded.
It pains him to not have been with the soldiers when they were hurt, he added.
“I’m relieved that I’m sitting here with you,” he said.
Girl Scouts “made my day”
While it was too early for MacDuff to say how the experience of being in Iraq changed him, the Penn Valley Post Office worker said that he didn’t think enough people are aware of the good things U.S. soldiers are doing in Iraq, such as building schools and training Iraqi soldiers.
Iraqi soldiers in Al Anbar Province had taken over 75 percent more checkpoints than they were in charge of a year ago, MacDuff said. He also thought that Bush’s troop surge in the spring had made a difference, from his perspective as a convoy operator.
“We were a lot safer with more troops there,” MacDuff said.
Before jumping in his jeep to head off to his next appointment, MacDuff said that he wanted to thank all of the groups who sent care packages to his platoon, including Friends of the Nevada County Military and Operation Mom.
One gift resonated especially for MacDuff.
“The Girl Scouts sent me a great tie-dye pillowcase,” he said. “I brought it back with me.”
To contact Staff Writer Jill Bauerle, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4219.
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