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Soldier returns from Iraq to greet baby daughter

When Bridgette Peterson was born three months ago, her father, Spec. Alex Peterson was sitting in a guard tower near Mosul, Iraq.

Now home on furlough, Alex said he borrowed his partner's cell phone to call the hospital and find out how his wife, Jen, and newborn daughter were faring. Then they smoked cigars in celebration.

"He called me that night," Jen said. "He knew I was in labor."

Alex will return to duty in Iraq next week for about 11 more months' service.

"She'll be just about a year old next time he gets to see her," said Jen.

Alex serves in the Charlie 4th Engineers out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.

"Second time I've been deployed to Iraq," Alex said of his tour of duty. "Last year, I was in Balad. That's part of the Sunni Triangle. They get a lot action."

At FOBQ West, where he has been stationed this year, he said troops deal mainly with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and car bombs.

"We had all that last year plus rocket fire and small arms fire on a daily basis," he said. "This year's been pretty quiet for us."

He said the living conditions are also better this year. He has an 8-by-8 room to himself with Internet access, and some of his fellow soldiers have cell phones. He is able to call home about twice a week. Last year, he said, he had to share the same size room with another soldier.

Alex works on construction in Iraq. He said conditions among the Iraqi people have also significantly improved in comparison with his first deployment. Last year, he said, the U.S. soldiers didn't work with the Iraqis. Now, they work with the Iraqi National Guard and police daily. And, U.S. troops are mostly in supervisory roles.

"They don't have the engineering capacity that we do, so the bigger projects we still do," Alex said.

For example, he said there was an unusually heavy rainfall this year causing a bridge to wash out. The U.S. engineers took over the reconstruction at that site.

Both Alex and Jen are Bemidji High School graduates. Jen plans to return to work soon at Wally's delicatessen in Wilton. Alex projects that he will finish his military service at the end of March 2007.

"I'd like to get out and come back to this area and get a federal job," he said.

He added that he is thinking about airport security, air marshal or Housing and Urban Development construction work.