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One Year in Iraq for an NYPD Officer, Part 2


Yesterday on the program, we introduced you to Dan Maher, a New York City police officer who spent a year training Iraqi soldiers. He was a drill sergeant.

He taught Iraqi recruits how to search for weapons and defend themselves against insurgents.


And in his spare time, he used a micro cassette recorder to tape daily life in Iraq. Now Maher has returned to New York and his job with the NYPD. Here now is an audio diary from Dan Maher as he tries to adjust to life back at home.

Sergeant DAN MAHER (Officer, New York City Police Department): They say, how was it? I say, oh, it was good. And they say, what? And I say, yes, it was really important that we were there. And they're shocked. It's like I just hit them with something, you know? And I say, you know, once they've recovered, I say, what's the matter? What are you all freaked out about?

They say, oh, I've never met anybody who said it was good. I say, yes.

Sergeant Wisenski(ph) has made sure the vehicle started properly. I'm just narrating.

Come up with these things I say, dude do you ever talk to a person from Iraq? They see, and I guess I've seen it too, the streets packed with people with protest signs saying America out of Iraq. I never saw that. I never saw it once, and I was in the city triangle and the people I met there that were Sunni's that were supposed to be these anti-American are no, they were like oh, we need running water, we need this school rebuilt, we need--we need electricity for the hospital. I was like all right, let's see what we can do. Yeah, we're working with these people.

For the checkpoints, I'd rather get Jersey or rather, you ever seen those Alaskan barriers?

Over there I was really important, and I made major decisions in a town like that. The head of the town they'd come to me, because I was in charge of Company Four and Company Four ran the checkpoint that patrolled this town. We were the grizzly king, we were famous in Sumarra.

Hey, have you ever thought about joining the Iraqi Army?

(Soundbite of man speaking in foreign language)

Unidentified Man: Yes, I'm Iraqi.

MAHER: Wow, I couldn't believe how easy it was to recruit people for the army. I had no idea. It was a matter of, I'd come into a town and I'd ask the people, you know, what do you guys do for money around here? He says, oh, nothing. We have no money. I said, well what do you do? They said, well we've got a couple of goats. I said oh, they had to buy their water. I said, well why don't you join the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Police Force? The government is starting up now, and we need, we need people to come and work and make some money. I mean, you'll make big money compared to what you have here. We had 440 men signed up inside of three days.

I said it before, I'll say it again. If I wanted to sit around and do nothing, I could have done with my wife and kids at home, you know? You're going to send me out here, don't send me out here and tell me to sit on my hands.

You make yourself useful. Everybody's in your immediate vicinity, and you feel like you've had a good day. And when you go to bed that night, you feel like you did something--you accomplished something, you're worthwhile. You helped somebody out.

Because when I got this tank here.

(Soundbite of radio transmission)

Unidentified Woman: (On radio) One male stopped, corner of (unintelligible) and Broadway.

MAHER: Then adjusting back to work it's just--I'm bored, bored, bored. I hear people say that, you know, I've heard that before from people coming back from, from deployment, said it's boring. I just go out looking for drugs and guns and gang activity and things like that.

So why didn't they take the money?

Unidentified Man: They left the PSP, they left a cell phone, the jackets--everything.

MAHER: So much fun chasing, I chased somebody last night and I caught him. It was great. And, he didn't have anything on him, but, I said why'd you run? He said I thought you were trying to kill me. Meanwhile we're--this hat, this Irish hat and like, wire rimmed glasses. I'm like what'd you think it was a Westie coming to get you? What the hell? So we laughed you know, he was, he was good humored about it, but it's fun. You know running, you know, and your--there's guns on the street and there's all kinds of bad things happening, the adrenalin's pumping and you're catching people, but is it useful? I don't know. It's fun.

(Soundbite of radio transmission)

Unidentified Woman: (On radio) Check your portables for open carriers.

MAHER: Someone was talking about an ER episode where one of the doctors, a veteran medic or something, he comes back and visits some friends of his who are over there, and he comes and tells his wife or his girlfriend, he's like I have to go back. And it's like such a big shocking dramatic thing. It's come on, of course he wants to go back. It's exciting, it's life, it's being useful. It's being, being useful.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: New York City police officer Dan Maher. And you can hear the first part of his audio diary. It's on our website, His story was produced by Marianne McCune of member station WNYC. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.