Rich Brown ’84 & Mitch Diana ’84

brown.jpgReunited in Iraq

It’s a small world, after all—particularly when you’re from Rhode Island.

In September 2006, Richard “Rich” Brown Jr. ’84 was deployed with the Army. He reported to the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, to begin training for a mission that would imbed him with Iraqi troops in Baghdad.

While on the flight from Kansas City to Fort Riley, Brown made small talk with his seatmate and quickly realized it was David “Mitch” Diana ’84, his former ROTC classmate.

“It was like old home week as we reminisced about where we had been,” Brown said by email. “We ended up as roommates during the training and deployed together, so the Rhody boys could talk about jonnycakes, quahogs, and Del’s Lemonade without boring our teammates.”

“It’s great to have an old friend to cover your back and for him to know his back is covered, too,” Diana said, also by email.

The two served on a Military Transition team (MiTT), a small group of soldiers who are imbedded with Iraqi forces, training them to secure their own country. The military—and politicians—view MiTT as the way out of Iraq.

Brown and Diana served in Baghdad from December 2006 to mid-November 2007.

“The Iraqis I met were brave and hard-working people who truly want this to work,” Brown said. “The average Iraqi displays extreme bravery in just going to work every day. All the Iraqis I worked with had family members or friends who had been kidnapped or killed. They understand risk more than we do, and they want to be free.”

Diana said 10 officers in the Iraqi Ground Forces Command were assassinated and another 20 were beaten and threatened with death if they returned to their jobs. They returned, willing to risk their lives for a chance at peace.

“We offered suggestions, but we didn’t solve it for them,” Diana said. “As Lawrence of Arabia said, ‘Better to let them do it imperfectly than to do it perfectly yourself, for it is their country, and your time is short.’”

—Liz Boardman