Father, daughter serve together

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Before returning home from Iraq, Chief Warrant Officer J.D. Smith made sure members of his Mississippi Air National Guard Reserves unit came home safely.

His greatest concern was about a soldier who wasn’t in the unit, though.

Smith left two weeks ago for his Helena home. Within a few hours of his departure, his daughter, Warrant Officer Katherine Smith, also returned home from Iraq.

Sitting in his home last week, J.D., a pilot, expressed pride in his daughter, who resides in California.

&uot;I was proud of her doing her job,&uot; he said. &uot;We needed to be fighting these people in their own backyard.&uot;

He made sure not to leave until she was on her way home.

&uot;I didn’t want to be 7,500 miles away from her,&uot; he said.

Coincidentally, they did not see each other upon arrival in the United States. The entire family will gather for a reunion next month, though.

The most relieved member of the family may be wife and stepmother Geni Smith, who prayed hundreds of prayers. Her husband served in Iraq for 15 months and her step-daughter for seven months.

&uot;It was nerve-wracking,&uot; she admits. &uot;I don’t think I’ve heard of a father-daughter combination.&uot;

She is ecstatic both are home safe.

&uot;We sure were lucky,&uot; she said.

J.D., a military veteran of 30-plus years, expresses optimism about the Coalition efforts, two years after the initial invasion by American and British troops.

He said the invasion was necessary to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein.

&uot;He was a terrible tyrant. There’s no doubt about that,&uot; he said.

Coincidentally, most of the Iraqis support the Coalition efforts, according to Smith. They often do not verbalize their support because of fear.

In fact, most of the current trouble is from individuals that come from other countries, such as Iran, Syria and Egypt.

Even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, America’s most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, is a Syrian.

&uot;Most of the trouble-makers in Iraq are not Iraqis,&uot; J.D. said. &uot;Each Iraqi has to take his or her destinies in their own hand, and turn the bad guys in.&uot;

He balks at individuals who state the U.S. needs to place a deadline on when the troops will return home. Instead, he says a presence should be there until an area is stable.

&uot;You clean up a town or area, and shortly after you leave somebody will come back in and cause trouble again,&uot; he said.

&uot;(Supporters) can’t voice their opinions until the security is improved. You would just disappear.&uot;

While Coalition troops are fighting an enemy, they are also establishing relationships with the Iraqi people as necessary through such things as candy drops.

He said schools are beginning to open, and most areas have power.

&uot;I can’t imagine (Iraqis) wanting to go backward,&uot; he said.

Coincidentally, troop morale is high, according to J.D.

&uot;They know that they’re doing a good job,&uot; he said.

While optimistic about the effort, J.D. said one indicator on the war’s success would be checking the casualty count in a few months.

While he was in Iraq, more than 1,000 Coalition forces – mostly Americans – died.

If the number of casualties drops during the next 15-month period, it is a sign the effort is going well.

&uot;We’re really making a big difference,&uot; he said.

J.D. is enjoying his return home, and will return to his work at Redstone Arsenal in the next few weeks. However, he plans to retire in the next few months