Army Maj. Peter Buotte is aiding in the reconstruction of a school.

AUGUSTA (AP) – A Maine man is the military’s lead man in the rush to repair hundreds of Iraqi schools.

Army Maj. Peter Buotte, an Augusta native, is working closely with Najdat Abdul-Aziz of Iraq’s Ministry of Education to get the school buildings in shape for the start of classes next month.

“Of the 1,500 schools in Baghdad, 40 percent (or 600) of them will be addressed,” he said in a telephone conversation from Baghdad.

Almost all of the more than 10,000 schools in Iraq are in a state of neglect, said Buotte, 36, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 411th Civil Affairs Unit in Danbury, Conn.

The 1984 Cony High School graduate is helping to devise plans to upgrade the buildings’ plumbing and electrical systems and fix structural flaws.

Buotte entered Kuwait on March 26 and moved into Iraq on April 6 alongside the Army’s 82nd Airborne Unit. After spending four months on the road, the 34-member unit settled in the capital about a month ago.

For Buotte, the days of inhaling hot desert air and sleeping in dusty Army vehicles are over now that he is based in air-conditioned quarters in Baghdad’s main presidential palace.

“I’m sleeping in the ballroom in the main palace. It’s like the White House. It’s got marble and chandeliers. It’s a nice change,” he said.

Buotte enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program while earning a bachelor’s degree in French at the University of Maine. He also speaks some Korean, Russian and Arabic, and is a trained sculptor.

Buotte, who previously taught art in New York City, was enrolled in a master’s degree program in art education at the Maine College of Art in Portland before he was deployed to the Middle East.


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