Woodworking in Iraq

SFC Frank Manroe displays an ornamental wooden box
KIRKUK, Iraq SFC Frank Manroe, 1st Brigade Combat Team Bastogne, 101st Airborne Division displays an ornamental wooden box he made in the Forward Operating Base Warrior woodshop.

KIRKUK, Iraq – Resourcefulness is a quality that many Soldiers seek, and for one non-commissioned officer stationed at Forward Operating Base Warrior in Kirkuk, Iraq, being resourceful has allowed him to improve living conditions for many other Soldiers through woodworking.

“I like to make Soldiers’ lives easier while they are here. I like doing projects to make the quality of their lives better,” said Sgt. First Class Francis Manroe, of the 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” 101st Airborne Division.

Manroe, a Hornell, NY native, works in the Mayor’s Cell on FOB Warrior as a billeting NCO. He also supervises the base Morale, Welfare and Recreation woodworking shop where Soldiers can come use the equipment to make projects.

“I don’t do the projects for them, but give them the means and knowledge to do it themselves,” explains Manroe.

Everyone who wants to use the shop must complete a short safety class. Manroe gives the class to ensure that each Soldier understands how the tools work as well as all applicable safety requirements.

“I think safety so much that sometimes I am overcautious. In high school [shop class] and in carpentry shops you always see someone who is missing parts of fingers, but I have never had any serious injuries. I take safety very seriously,” adds Manroe.

Though Manroe does not complete projects for Soldiers in the woodshop, he spends his spare time doing woodworking projects of his own.

He specializes in making coin holders for Soldiers. He also makes boxes from scrap wood that he finds on the FOB. The boxes can be used for knick knacks and as jewelry boxes or as gifts. He has also made cabinets and gun racks.

“All the wood is scrap wood, I’m very careful to not use wood that is intended for other projects; this has all been discarded,” said Manroe.

Many people on Warrior know that he does this work, so they save the scraps of wood and give them to him.

“I don’t throw anything away; you can always find a use for a scrap of wood, no matter how small,” he said.

Manroe is resourceful; he even uses shavings from finished projects in some of his other projects.

Woodworking has been his hobby and passion since 1996.

“My wife saw a plate rack in a catalog that she wanted but I did not want to pay that much and told her that I could make it instead,” explains Manroe. “So I went and bought equipment and spent more than what the plate rack would have cost, but she still has that plate rack, she loves it. And I had the tools I needed to start woodworking.”

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