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Iraq changes West Fargo soldier

When Spc. Steven Guscette went to Iraq this spring with the 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion, he and his buddies were loaded for bear, well-armed and ready to work.

When Spc. Steven Guscette went to Iraq this spring with the 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion, he and his buddies were loaded for bear, well-armed and ready to work.

The West Fargo man returned to Camp Anaconda, his Iraqi home last week, loaded for boredom.

Guscette boarded his flight out of Fargo carrying a new laptop computer with 51 gigs of its 60-gigabyte hard disk crammed with games.

"My platoon hasn't been the busiest," said the North Dakota guardsman, whose job is laying concrete and asphalt with the headquarters and support company. Much of the work in Iraq is done by local contractors.

The battalion's latest task is pouring 500 concrete slabs for an addition to a massive tent city spread on a rebuilt airbase north of Baghdad.


To get through slow periods, Guscette works convoy duty. It's mostly uneventful, he said, except for an occasional potshot at the trucks.

"I had some scary times," he admits. Still, he'd rather the fighting be in Iraq.

"Us being over there makes it easier for people here (in America)," he said, sitting in the kitchen of his parents' West Fargo home.

Guscette said the Iraq war is a step in the fight against terrorism directed at the United States. Americans may be a target in Iraq, but that means al Qaida and other terror groups have fewer resources to attack civilians. "At least we (soldiers) can fight back. We can take care of them."

The 26-year-old hopes the new computer improves access to news from home. Because of long lines, "the phones are terrible," he said.

His leave was packed with activity. Sleep lasted five to six hours a night, as he jammed in visits with friends and family.

Guscette visited his grandparents in western North Dakota and went deer hunting with his father, Jon.

"Thank God he got in because I got two tags for him," Jon Guscette said at Hector International Airport, vowing to ship a Care package of deer jerky to his son.


Guscette also enjoyed home-cooked meals and a Christmas celebration sprung by his mother, Delilah Guscette.

"I think it's helping my mom more," he said of the leave. "It sucks being away from my family, but it hasn't been that hard on me. I think it's been harder on my parents."

Being in Iraq has good and bad points. The Iraq Weight Loss plan -- working in 130-degree heat while wearing a flak jacket -- carved 35 pounds from his 6-foot frame.

At the same time, the deployment put him at least a year behind on getting business and accounting degrees at North Dakota State University.

Still, the effort is worth it and the experience has changed him, he said.

"I think it's good we're over there. Do I want to be over there specifically? Not really," Guscette said. "It's showed me a lot. The small things, the freedoms, I know I'll appreciate them a little more."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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