Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for April 5, 2010 - Lt. Col. Hugh McNeely

Lieutenant Colonel Hugh McNeely

Current Unit: 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
Current Position: Deputy Commander
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Hood, Texas
Hometown: Picher, Okla.
Years of Service: 19

During his deployment to northern Iraq last year, Lt. Col. Hugh McNeely worked side-by-side with local Iraqi troops in an effort to improve local conditions and increase self-sustainability in Iraq’s northern provinces. Through a partnership between the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and the 12th Iraqi Army Division, McNeely led the troops to mitigate an ongoing regional drought as well as renovate several local schools. These, along with other efforts, stimulated the growth of local business and agribusiness as well as increased the local government’s capacity to provide essential services for citizens.

“Primarily the people that I worked with wanted to improve their situation. They were committed to the change and were very willing to partner with us,” he said, reflecting on the accomplishments during his deployment.

Most notably, the collaboration of American and Iraqi forces yielded successful drought relief efforts. Despite the fourth year of a regional drought affecting the northern region of Iraq, additional water was provided to locals in time for the high growing season. In part due to the efforts of McNeely’s brigade and the Iraqi troops, water was routed from the Dokan Dam in northeastern Iraq down through the Lower Zab River to the Dibbis reservoir in western Kirkuk province.

Drought relief in the province was crucial, since agriculture and related industries comprise the majority of the economic activity in the northern regions of Iraq. Through this project, the Soldiers positively affected the economical growth of the local businesses and agricultural improvements throughout the provinces of Kirkuk, Dahuk and Sulaymaniyah.

In addition to the drought relief efforts, the brigade also worked to renovate many schools in the region. The efforts of the brigade allowed many local children to attend schools with running water and electricity for the first time.

For McNeely, being a father himself allowed him to relate to Iraqi parents and motivated him to further improve their quality of life.

“You have a connection with every Iraqi child. Seeing their parents, you know you can put yourself in their shoes,” he said. “You want to help make it better for them.”

For his meritorious service throughout his year-long deployment, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

While he was serving in Iraq, his wife, Col. (Ret.) Rosa McNeely, retired from her career in the Army. The couple met as captains when they were assigned to the same brigade, and after many years of service together, they have become accustomed to frequent separations.

“A lot of our younger or new Soldiers struggle to find spouses to support them. I was fortunate in that being a Soldier herself, my wife understood military life and my obligations. She knows what it means to serve your country,” he said.

McNeely currently lives in Harker Heights, Texas, with his wife and their daughter, Katie. Although he will be moving to Germany this summer for a new assignment, Rosa will stay in Texas while Katie finishes her last year of high school.

Telling the Army Story: Community Relations

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