AUGUST 2, 2004 - Posted at 11:21 a.m. CDT
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - Swiftly moving down the bank of the biblically famed Tigris River, 1st Lt. Brian Mason of Jonesboro, yells out to a group of surrounding soldiers trying to keep pace with his fast walk.
"This fence needs to go," he said, pointing to a rusted fence line with trees and shrubbery twining through its lengths. "And when you're tearing out the fence, try to leave the trees."
Mason curtly gives his guidelines for what he wants done.
"Make it look pretty," he said. "This one's real important."
A short time later, dirt clouds and the sound of heavy machinery fill the afternoon air as bulldozers, bucket loaders and chainsaws hither to and fro, wildly setting to work Mason's directives.
The instructions Mason gave his platoon of engineers from the 39th Brigade Combat Team are for a clean-up project on a once prominent park that lay along the historical waters of Baghdad.
The famous park, named after an Iraqi poet, Abu Nuwas, from the 9th century, was closed to the public after Saddam came to power. Over the years it has steadily collected trash, turning it into a ramshackle of concrete chunks and dead foliage.
Cleaning up the park has been a welcome break for the engineers, whose tasks, until recently, have dealt with everything from managing the set-up and protection of Camp Cooke in Taji, an area just ten miles north of Baghdad, to manning bridges and hauling away trash.