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Flushing cop changes uniforms for National Guard post in Iraq

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Within weeks, the 38-year-old father of three will join the stability operations units in a location in Iraq that he is not allowed to disclose.

"What we'll be doing is replacing active duty units so they can go back to their families," he said.

At least that's the version of the story Macklin is telling his three young sons.

Just days before he said his farewells last Thursday at the 109th Precinct in Flushing, where he worked as a cop for the better part of his 14 years with the NYPD, four U.S. contractors were killed, mutilated and dragged through the streets before two were hung from a bridge in the Sunni territory of Falluja in Iraq.

When he saw the images of two burned corpses strung up on the bridge last week, he was enraged.

"Here we are trying to offer the best of what the West has to offer," he said. "We're trying to make democracy work there."

Macklin, a member of the New York Army National Guard, said his role in Iraq will be that of enforcing the law and training Iraqi police.

"I'm at ease with what's going on," he said. His friends who are in Iraq already are helping in schools and aiding public works projects to rebuild the infrastructure that was damaged during the war.

"I have faith in the U.S. government that they have a plan in place," he said. "I have faith in the Iraqi people."

His family, he said, is supportive of his serving overseas. After Sept. 11, 2001, when additional troops were called to duty all over the world, he was assigned to a peace-keeping mission in Bosnia.

That changed when the Army reassigned him to Iraq.

"With stability operations, if fired upon there are certain rules of engagement," he said. "It could potentially lead to combat operations."

His wife is nervous. His father, also a former New York cop and National Guardsman, is supportive - with slight reservations.

"They're worried. They see the TV. They read the newspapers," he said. "They realize a lot of our Western allies are giving their lives and limbs for democracy."

His colleagues at the 109th said they wished him well and hoped for his safety.

"I've known Pat since I transferred here in October 1995," said Officer Joseph Conelli, who used to be his partner.

"He's a good man. He's a hard worker, dedicated as both a husband and father," he said. "I said to him, 'Just be careful out there.'"

Officer Brian McGeown, Macklin's supervisor, said he is not only Macklin's boss but his neighbor.

"It's a scary thing," McGeown said. "You don't want to see anybody go over there, especially someone you work with."

For his three boys, aged 9, 7 and 3 years old, Macklin said it has been even harder to say goodbye.

"The bad thing is I miss 18 months of my kids' lives," he said. "But it's a trade-off because the soldiers who are on active duty now, they've missed more."

For the 9-year-old, Macklin said it has not been difficult to explain his departure.

When he dons his uniform, he said his youngest son is always sad and knows his father is leaving.

"The middle guy, the only thing he asked was, 'Can I pray for you every night?'" Macklin said. "And I said 'Yes, of course you can pray for me every night.'"

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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