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Libby man is recognized by U.S. Army for his work

| May 31, 2011 1:37 AM

   A man who hails from Libby is among those serving in Afghanistan who has been honored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for service while stationed in Afghanistan.

   Michael Peterson, 58, originally from Libby, Mont., and deployed with the Portland District Corps of Engineers, served as the facility maintenance manager from Nov. 14, to May 22.

   Peterson, an electrician by trade, was reached Tuesday afternoon in the Washington, D.C., Dulles International Airport. He was just back from Afghanistan and was awaiting the arrival of a flight bringing his wife, Joani, to meet him.

   Peterson, who just completed his third stint in Afghanistan, is a walking, talking testimony for the good that the U.S. is doing in the Islamic country.

   “When I first came here (in 2004) there were probably 95 percent of the women in (traditional Muslin dress). Now it’s about 10 percent, and the people have dreams,” Peterson said. “They see our cell phones, our cars, and the improvement in their lifestyles. The best part, is the women.

    “There was an old saying: The worst thing you could be on this earth is a woman in Afghanistan. Nowadays, the women may be wearing a head scarf, but they’re wearing jeans and T-shirts. They’ve got dreams and they’re going to school.”

   Peterson said in the time since his first stint dating back to 2004, he’s seen tremendous progress.

   “Now, the boys go to school in the day and the girls at night. Also, there is a total re-education of the people going on here,” Peterson said. “Afghan men are taking orders from women (soldiers and civilian), and they’re seeing women are capable. It’s a huge transformation. And it feels really good to be a part of this.”

   For Peterson, his life is not without stress.

   For all the improvements, Peterson’s life is not without risk.

“I got here in November, and since then, our base has been hit 27 times with rockets. Recently, one sent a piece of shrapnel through my bedroom window,” Peterson said.

   Completing his third tour, Peterson has received four commendations from the Army – three Commander’s Awards and one Civilian Achievement Medal.

   Peterson received his most-recent commendation during the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-North celebrated the accomplishments and meritorious service of military service members and civilians during an award ceremony held at the AED-N Qalaa House Compound on May 22.  

  Peterson was responsible for the maintenance of a three-story area office, 40-room billet and morale welfare and recreation facility, a 28-room billet and all supporting utilities.

  During his seven months in Afghanistan, Peterson received more than 400 service requests for various repairs to the existing electrical, door locks, air-conditioning units, light fixtures, water pumps, furniture, water heaters, washer and dryers. 

   His repair work has remediated several life-health safety issues improving the way of life for all Bagram area office employees.

   Here are the commendations issued:

• The Achievement Award for Civilian Service, Global War on Terrorism

Civilian Service Department of Defense Medal and NATO Medal;

• The Commander’s Award for Civilian Service, Global War on Terrorism

Civilian Service Department of Defense Medal and NATO Medal;

•  The Superior Civilian Service Award, Global War on Terrorism Civilian

Service Department of Defense Medal and NATO Medal;

• The Joint Service Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and

the NATO Medal.

   So, will Peterson serve a fourth tour in Afghanistan?

   “That I don’t know,” he said. “I will have to talk to my family about that. Perhaps.”