Hussein capture puts spotlight on local officer Army Maj. Brian J. Reed of Huntingdon Valley was part of the team that caught the Iraqi ex-dictator.

Posted: December 17, 2003

The first call came just before dawn Sunday morning, while the Reeds were still in bed.

It was their daughter-in-law Kirsten calling from Fort Hood, Texas. Turn on the TV, she said. They got Saddam - and your son had something to do with it.

Since that moment, the phone has not stopped ringing at the Reeds' Huntingdon Valley home. There are relatives, neighbors, even old friends, all calling to congratulate their son Brian - Army Maj. Brian J. Reed of the Fourth Infantry Division's First Brigade Combat Team - whose unit helped capture Saddam Hussein over the weekend, rooting him out of a crude bunker in an Iraqi village near the northern city of Tikrit.

And it was Reed - once a tall, quiet, unassuming boy who graduated with honors from St. Joseph's Preparatory School - who brought news to the world of Hussein's extraordinary first words to American soldiers.

Facing the cameras earlier this week, Reed said Hussein had told his captors: "I am Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq. And I'm willing to negotiate."

"These are amazing times," Joy Reed, his mother, said in an interview yesterday. "The phone just keeps ringing and ringing. It's like they're coming out of the woodwork. The funny thing is: If he knew this was going on, he would be mortified!"

Indeed, in a brief interview over a satellite telephone in Iraq, Reed, 36, said he was embarrassed - though flattered - by all the attention.

But Reed, the brigade's operations officer, was also quick to point out that Hussein's capture was the result of months of dogged, scrappy work by hundreds of soldiers. The men and women in his division, along with those from the Special Forces teams, deserve the credit, he said.

Though he did not see Hussein's bedraggled figure emerge from the hut with hands held above his head - the mission was conducted under cover of darkness - Reed said the ex-strongman's behavior belied his past bluster.

"I was personally expecting him to put up a fight," Reed said. "And the fact that he didn't is obviously a testament to his character."

Since Hussein's capture, Reed said, there has been much relief in his unit. And quite a bit of pride, because his brigade's ultimate mission - to kill or capture Hussein - had been accomplished.

But, he said, there's more work to be done.

"It's still business as usual for us," Reed said. "We continue to conduct raids against former regime loyalists."

Told of his words yesterday, friends and family chuckled, saying it was just like Reed to downplay his work.

Said Army Maj. Kevin Vizzarri, 35, who attended elementary and high school with Reed and who is now stationed with him in Fort Hood: "He never was a showman. He was the guy who'd get the job done."

Vizzarri and others said yesterday that Reed (class of 1985) was among the most focused students at St. Joseph's, pulling down mostly A's while also playing center for the basketball team.

Former principal Daniel A. Brennan said Reed also played football, volleyball and baseball, and wrote for the school newspaper, while participating in the photography and French clubs. "You could see he was going to be something," Brennan said.

Reed's high school yearbook quote read: "Experience is that wonderful thing that enables to us to immediately recognize a mistake every time we repeat it."

Reed said yesterday that he knew he wanted to be in the military after he saw his first Army-Navy game at the Vet while still in high school.

"I thought it was cool," he said. "Next thing I know, I was at West Point."

Reed's father, Charles Reed, chief of general pediatrics at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, said that although his was not a military family, he encouraged his son to pursue his dream career.

Since then, Reed has served tours of duty in Germany and Hawaii, as well as in Haiti and Cuba, Joy Reed said. In between, he also married his high school sweetheart, Kirsten, and now has two daughters, Stephanie, 12, and Kaelin, 10.

In his e-mails from Iraq since Hussein's capture, Reed has said little about the night the dictator was discovered, his parents said yesterday.

Instead, he has joked that his involvement in Hussein's capture should at the very least warrant his throwing out the first pitch at a Phillies game this summer.

"I told him that's a tall order," Charles Reed said.

Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 215-854-2287 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.

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