from paid subscription site A year in Iraq By Claude Parsons, Herald-Times December 7, 2005 Bedford man home after eventful 12 months as civilian worker doing reconstruction in war zone Although the long days, seven days a week, weighed on him as a civilian working in Iraq, Jeff Bell enjoyed the experience and would be happy to return. Bell, 30, returned to Bedford Oct. 23 - exactly a year after arriving in Baghdad as a government contingency operations specialist with Halliburton/ Kellogg, Brown and Root - involved in reconstruction work in Iraq. "We faced danger every day, and I was tired after the year was over, but I miss it," said the 1993 Bedford North Lawrence High School graduate. "But if I had it to do over again, I would return to Iraq." The first three months were spent at Camp Fallujah, where he supervised the work out of the operations office. Fallujah is the Marine Corps base about 35 miles from Baghdad. "We were hit with 122-mm Chinese rockets one to three times a day, three to five times a week," Bell said. "The closest landed about 150 yards away. "When we were under attack, I was responsible for locating fellow employees and checking on their safety," he said. "In the event of an injury, I was to dispatch a medic and then notify the military. Fortunately, there were no injuries when I was there." After leaving Fallujah, Bell was sent to Al Asad, the largest air base in the Middle East, located in western Iraq. This was followed by a six-month assignment at Abu Ghraib Prison, where he ran the operations office. "I checked daily on progress of new construction and discussed any future projects with the military," Bell said. The prison walls were guarded by U.S. Marines, but the Iraqi prisoners were guarded by Iraqis themselves, assisted by U.S. advisers from our prison system, he explained. "While I was at the prison, we came under the longest attack since the war began," Bell said. "Starting on April 2, the Marines held off the insurgents for 2 1/2 hours, with no reinforcements. We were hit with 122-mm rockets, 60-mm mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire, and at least two car bombs." While stationed at Abu Ghraib, Bell was on rest and relaxation two different times - first to Sydney, Australia, and later on a trip that took him to Portugal, Ireland and England. It was his fourth time to visit Australia, the first three when he served in the Marines. Following the prison assignment, Bell was sent to Sadr City, on the eastern side of Baghdad, where he continued his involvement in management operations. "The Iraqi people want the U.S. presence in their country," Bell said. "They are very cooperative, and most of the information on the insurgency comes from the Iraqis. "Many of us don't realize it, but 98 percent of the insurgency is made up of non-Iraqis and 95 percent of those are Saudi Arabian." Bell's decision to go to Iraq was made after he learned he would have the opportunity to work with Jim Aviles, another civilian employee. Aviles was Bell's company's first sergeant when they were in the Marines. Bell enlisted in the Marines at 17 after graduation from high school. He spent four years on active duty, followed by three years in the reserves. He works with his parents in the family business in Bedford and Bloomington. "I hope to get into law enforcement in Indiana," he said. "If not hired by April, I may return to Iraq. My company offered me a raise and a promotion and gave me a year to decide."