- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

An Iraqi-American engineer who has been helping to build a bridge over the Potomac River is returning to his roots to build one over the Euphrates.Fawaz Saraf, 45, a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) employee from Chevy Chase, left during the weekend to begin training for a project in which he will assist in a partnership, made up of Iraqi engineers and the transitional U.S. administration, to rebuild several bridges over the river and key highways in Iraq.”I think he has been waiting for this moment for many years,” said his wife, Magda Cabrero.Mr. Saraf headed to Texas on Saturday for orientation. He was scheduled to ship out for Kuwait City yesterday or today and then go to Baghdad to work on the infrastructure projects for about a month. The structural engineer’s project is the work of the U.S. Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.Mrs. Cabrero said Mr. Saraf is excited not only about contributing to the betterment of his native country, but also because he has a sister in Baghdad and is excited about seeing her and some friends. Mr. Saraf considered it his duty to help reverse the ill effects of Saddam Hussein’s regime, she said.Mr. Saraf, who left Baghdad when he was 12, could not be reached for comment because he was traveling. But he said in a prepared statement that while the immediate task of the team is to rebuild roads, “Our long-term goal is to lay a sound foundation for empowering Iraqi engineers to design and build improvements that will provide long-lasting benefits to the Iraqi people.”Mrs. Cabrero said that while she and her two sons, ages 10 and 14, will miss Mr. Saraf, the length of the trip is bearable, and the two boys realize the importance of his project.The children “see their dad doing something that is so much bigger than himself, than myself and than themselves,” she said.Mr. Saraf left Iraq in 1970, two years after Saddam’s Ba’ath Party seized control of the country.Ronaldo Nicholson, project manager on the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, said the Iraqi exile will bring with him experience in working on big projects, and the ability to deal well with co-workers and the community at large. He said Mr. Saraf is “self-motivated and dependable.”“He’s a very technical engineer and he’s open-minded,” said Mr. Nicholson, who has worked with Mr. Saraf for about 10 years. “He will bring several solutions instead of just one, research the job thoroughly, and his people skills and intercommunication skills are such that he will be very important to the project.”After Mr. Saraf received orders that he was to travel to Iraq to assist in the project, he spent a lot of time ensuring that the Wilson Bridge project was in order and that his departure wouldn’t cause any delay. Mr. Nichols said this demonstrated the engineer’s strong work ethic and care for detail.”His major concern all of last week was making sure everything was in a position to keep the ball rolling,” Mr. Nicholson said.Despite VDOT having a pool of workers to continue contributing to the project where Mr. Saraf left off, he will be missed, Mr. Nichols said. He also said it will be several years before the Wilson Bridge project is complete, so Mr. Saraf will be back on the bridge team to help out when he returns.”He’ll be back in time, and we’ll have plenty of work for him,” Mr. Nicholson said.

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