Gunner & Ed to visit ET troops in
By JEANNINE F. HUNTER, email@example.com
February 1, 2004
Gunner's going to the Middle East and taking news
anchor Ed Hooper with him.
Leaving Knoxville today, the two WIVK radio broadcasters
will spend the next month covering local troops serving with
the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion in Iraq.
W IVK anchor Hooper looks forward to seeing places
he learned about in Sunday school or in history books.
Colleague and radio personality Gunner looks forward
to assembling a Who's Who of country music stars to bring greetings,
prayers and well wishes to the troops.
"The first thing I will do is have Charlie
Daniels pray to the troops," said Gunner.
Both men said they appreciate the opportunity
to "keep the faces of soldiers in people's minds and hearts,
to humanize the Iraqi people" and to provide updates on
America's role in rebuilding Iraq and restoring its culture.
"This is a time when reporters are needed
most, when the questions are getting asked about the future
of the country," said Hooper, who has worked at newspapers
and TV stations and is currently news anchor at the 50-year-old
"We will be on the air pretty much all day,"
In December, the Knoxville-based Army Reserve
unit helped establish a new radio station in Iraq, which enables
the men to stay connected with East Tennessee listeners as they
chronicle what they witness. Baghdad is eight hours "ahead"
of the Eastern Standard Time zone, which means by the time Gunner
and Hooper go on the air, they will have had a full day's worth
of activities to report during local morning and evening rush
Gunner's show, "The Ride Home With Gunner,"
airs 3-7 p.m., and Hooper's reports will air during the "Hallerin
Hilton Hill Morning Show" as well as other broadcasts on
Citadel Broadcasting's local sister stations.
In addition to WIVK broadcasts, the men will also
periodically file an online journal for the News Sentinel's
Web site - www.KnoxNews.com - and do call-in updates on television
station WVLT, Channel 8, and radio station WNOX.
When asked if they were prayerful about their
safety, Hooper said he thought about it but felt they were in
the best hands because they're accompanying the 489th.
The men acknowledge their relationship with the
military, strengthened by the station's soldier signature series,
"Voices From the Front," facilitated the trip planning.
The series connected families whose loved ones served in Afghanistan,
Kosovo and Iraq.
"It took us into places where TV cameras
could not go and helped people who called us telling us they
wanted to get in touch with someone serving overseas,"
The station set up a telephone call-in feature
in which people visited the station and spoke with their loved
ones on the air. The station continues to be lauded for the
service, which expanded to include dispatches from British and
Australian military personnel who either trained in the United
States or had East Tennessee connections.
team reaches camp
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 6, 2004
CAMP WOLVERINE, Kuwait ó Gunner and I arrived
at Camp Wolverine with the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion a few
We traveled from the airport
in Kuwait City to Camp Wolverine in a bus zigzagging through
concrete barriers meant to slow cars and past concertina wire
stretched alongside the road creating a barrier to halt any
other approach to the camp.
We stepped off of the bus and mustered in a yard
with the other units for a head count before watching a video
briefing us on what to do and not do. The first words youíre
told is the fact youíre in a combat zone and never go anywhere
without someone at your side.The men
and women in the unit Gunner and I are embedded with have quickly
become like family to us. Every time we are out, members of
the group will point out things we need to know or show us a
few tricks to make things easier. The faces from home seem to
make this hostile environment more bearable.
After we were assigned
a tent, we crashed on cots. I learned quickly the one thing
the Department of Defense never tells reporters in their embed
checklist is the value of a heavy wool blanket on a cool night
The first night was miserable.
After the heavy sleep got through our system, the cold started
working its way into our sleep and kept us awake the rest of
the night. Everyone was knocked out from the heavy day of work
and the tent reverberated with snoring while the bodies started
adjusting to the new time zone and the environment.Gunner
and I didnít have the heart to say anything to them until the
lights came on at dawn. The first thing we did the next morning
was locating the 489thís scrounge artist and procure some blankets.
The speed at which he was
able to get it done was amazing and brought a sense of comfort
that was unbelievable to us.
Being part of one of the
greatest troop rotations in American military history is a learning
experience. These arenít raw recruits landing in Kuwait for
forward deployment, but seasoned veterans of Afghanistan, Bosnia
and Desert Storm ó men and women who are truly specialists in
their fields and each with a unique perspective that compliments
the group as a whole.
Being two natives of East
Tennessee, you canít help but feel a sense of pride being attached
to this Knoxville-based unit. Preparations are now under way,
and we hope to know soon exactly where weíll be going downrange.
Iraq Journal: Team settles into military routine
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 6, 2004
Camp Wolverine, Kuwait -- Hurry up and wait. This
is probably the worst thing about the military.
The PUSH team Gunner and I are with is following
the old soldier's rule of don't stand when you can sit, don't
sit when you can lay down and don't lay down when you can sleep.
There isn't much routine yet as the 489th is still waiting on
their supplies to catch up with them. They meet from time to
time to work out their game plans and, for 12 people, they seem
to do the work of three times that many.
The cold barren tent we first laid down in two
nights ago is now brimming with the sounds and some of the comforts
of home. Many soldiers brought their laptops and are watching
the latest DVDs thanks to loved ones. We found an outlet in
the back left corner and that has become a source of joy for
For those not familiar with the military lifestyle,
it is a lot like "Survivor." Many soldiers bring one
luxury item with them in their gear.
Whether it is movies, a coffee pot, books or a
chess game, all of them put together makes for a pretty decent
resemblance to home, but the reality of where we are is not
far from anyone's mind.
One individual, who takes the time, when he can,
to remind you of your geographical location, is one I bonded
with immediately. His name is Chief Warrant Officer Dave Waterfield.
He first joined the Army as the Vietnam War was ending and has
remained a part of it.
"Chief," as he is called, is a powerful
force with the group here and has become a great teacher to
me during this endeavor, especially in the differences in a
combat Army versus one in peacetime.
There is no wasted movement with him. He has a
working philosophy common to the other members of the 489th
of focusing on the task at hand and getting the job done. The
work here is shared equally among them and even though he is
senior to most, he pitches in to help with what needs to be
done. When most servicemen his age would probably be looking
toward retirement, he joined up with the 489th to get back in
"This isn't about me or any other soldier,
this about helping the Iraqi people get their government back
and making sure my people accomplish their mission as safely
as possible," Waterfield said.
"We all help each other here and do what's
needed to get things taken care of. It takes everyone working
together as a team to make it happen and this is a great group
to be associated with.
"They put each other ahead of themselves
and when you have a group of people who do that it makes things
The Ohio native is also a big country music fan
and spent a good deal of time last night talking with Gunner
about it and listening to Gunner's stories of country music
entertainers, concert hi-jinks and East Tennessee's country
Chief Waterfield is also a big fan of bluegrass
and said his musical taste often surprised his family.
"My mom used to tell me she thought her and
dad brought home the wrong kid," Waterfield said. "I
grew up listening to what you could call the old country music.
I just always like the sound of it and that was a little odd
for a kid from Ohio."
The second night for Gunner and me was a little
better, but not much as dawn approached. We had to get another
blanket to keep the cold from reaching through the bottom of
The good news was we got our first reports back
to WIVK and were able to start getting things accomplished.
When we awoke this morning around 4 a.m. the chief was already
out and working -- bringing back some welcome news.
The unit is beginning to pull its supplies in
and locate where the others are, which is raising morale and
hopes they can get their respective missions under way soon.
Iraq Journal: Morale rising among
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 6, 2004
Camp Wolverine, Kuwait -- It is the third day
and things are moving ahead better than first thought.
Most importantly it is raising morale among the
489th. They are adapting to the environment, and we are getting
to know each other better. When the people of the push team
deploy to their original groups and Gunner and I hook up with
one of them, I will hate to see them go.
Some will stay with us during the transfer, which will make
things easier. Gunner and I met up with some of the civilian
contractors today and spent some time talking with them about
Baghdad. An American aircraft mechanic we met today has just
arrived from Scotland where he was vacationing when he got the
call to get to Baghdad.
The best time to meet up with them is generally
around breakfast when they are over at the fastfood outlets
grabbing coffee and getting something to eat. We are also seeing
a number of soldiers from the other nations represented in the
coalition forces. Finding those who can speak English is difficult,
and the number of nations represented in camp is such that we
are still trying to figure out who's who.
The 489th is gaining more information about the
locations of their main body of troops, where they are or will
be in the days ahead. Gunner and I are still spending time at
Camp Wolverine learning, training and meeting soldiers from
other divisions. We are constantly on the lookout for people
The members of the PUSH team are getting more
comfortable with us and beginning to open up. In the days spent
together here at Camp Wolverine, we have gotten to know each
other, and I find it can test your skills as an observer.
This has been a good training exercise for us
as well getting to know what our equipment will and won't do
in the field and how to ship it back to WIVK and the News Sentinel.
Like the 489th, once we find something that works, we stick
with it and try not to complicate things.
As the days pass, our skills are getting sharper.
It has been years since we have had to adapt and improvise to
get around some of the everyday problems you encounter in this
environment with electronic communication.
The weather here is still running cool at night
and the spattering of rain we got today helped settle the dust
that seems to be everywhere. The dust is a constant and it keeps
you checking your equipment and keeping it clean.
Iraq Journal: Troops moving through to Iraq
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 6, 2004
Camp Wolverine, Kuwait — 2,300 soldiers
are expected to cycle through here today at Camp Wolverine for
deployment to Iraq.
Some are returning home, others coming in for
the first time and still more getting some much-needed R&R
before heading back. The one thing they all have in common is
trying to get out of here as soon as possible and to wherever
they are assigned to go.
We had our tent invaded twice last night by units
coming in. One Recon group entered and left in a matter of minutes,
and the second was a group of soldiers from Fort Riley, Kan.,
who bunked in for the night. They were a good group and spent
some time acclimating themselves by talking to the soldiers
and getting a feel for the camp.
The talk is always the same among soldiers, family
left at home, children they won’t see for a while and
experiences from the ride over. After three days here, the 489th
is squared away and trying to lay in some extra mission-essential
supplies their experience tells them we will need.
The 489th is giving me a lesson in Army logistics
— the art of moving men and equipment together to a hostile
environment. It seems to be the most maddening thing about this
deployment, but when you have a machine as large as the U.S.
military, it doesn’t move as smoothly or quickly as you
would think it would, which gives you respect for their stubbornness
to get it together before moving out.
They are as anxious as Gunner and me to get moving
downrange. They have located all of their original supplies
and pallets and are now trying to arrange the transport to move
them. The one thing you have to respect is their attention to
detail. The senior members of the group know how important it
is to have what they need and know not to count on it not being
available in Iraq.
Gunner and I spent the evening with unit watching
the action in the tent and seeing how much this group sticks
together when it comes to taking care of their own.
One case in point is Specialist Heather Nugent
from Wisconsin. She has been a part of the 489th for only a
short time and is highly regarded among the men.
It’s been hard for her to get used to being
escorted wherever she goes. She feels it’s because of
her sex, but it’s not a women in the military issue.
In a camp as large as this, everyone has what
they call a "battle buddy," a person who accompanies
you wherever you go. Your very first briefing at this camp when
you arrive tells you to get one. Even Gunner and I can’t
leave the group, without first alerting Chief Waterfield or
Sgt. Troy Stewart of where we’re going and how long we
should be. The situation is even more cautious after dark.
The good news is Gunner and I finally made it
through a night in Kuwait with a good sleep.
Iraq Journal: WIVK team reaches camp
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 6, 2004
CAMP WOLVERINE, Kuwait — Gunner and I arrived
at Camp Wolverine with the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion a few
We traveled from the airport in Kuwait City to
Camp Wolverine in a bus zigzagging through concrete barriers
meant to slow cars and past concertina wire stretched alongside
the road creating a barrier to halt any other approach to the
We stepped off of the bus and mustered in a yard with the other
units for a head count before watching a video briefing us on
what to do and not do. The first words you’re told is
the fact you’re in a combat zone and never go anywhere
without someone at your side.
The men and women in the unit Gunner and I are
embedded with have quickly become like family to us. Every time
we are out, members of the group will point out things we need
to know or show us a few tricks to make things easier. The faces
from home seem to make this hostile environment more bearable.
After we were assigned a tent, we crashed on cots.
I learned quickly the one thing the Department of Defense never
tells reporters in their embed checklist is the value of a heavy
wool blanket on a cool night in Kuwait.
The first night was miserable. After the heavy
sleep got through our system, the cold started working its way
into our sleep and kept us awake the rest of the night. Everyone
was knocked out from the heavy day of work and the tent reverberated
with snoring while the bodies started adjusting to the new time
zone and the environment.
Gunner and I didn’t have the heart to say
anything to them until the lights came on at dawn. The first
thing we did the next morning was locating the 489th’s
scrounge artist and procure some blankets. The speed at which
he was able to get it done was amazing and brought a sense of
comfort that was unbelievable to us.
Being part of one of the greatest troop rotations
in American military history is a learning experience. These
aren’t raw recruits landing in Kuwait for forward deployment,
but seasoned veterans of Afghanistan, Bosnia and Desert Storm
— men and women who are truly specialists in their fields
and each with a unique perspective that compliments the group
as a whole.
Being two natives of East Tennessee, you can’t
help but feel a sense of pride being attached to this Knoxville-based
unit. Preparations are now under way, and we hope to know soon
exactly where we’ll be going downrange.
Iraq Journal: 489th talent
includes grandson of UT president
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 9, 2004
BAGHDAD — The East Tennessee soldiers who
make up the U.S. Army Reserve’s 489th Civil Affairs Battalion
are a unique and dedicated lot of individuals.
It takes a number of unique talents to make up
a successful Special Operations Force and bringing those people
together to function as a team takes extraordinary foresight,
leadership and patience on the part of their commanders.
All are soldiers and the sight of their rifles slung across
their backs never fails to remind you of that fact, butthe skills
they possess beyond that are what truly makes the 489th successful.
Specialist David Holt, 23, is in the unit’s
Bravo Company. He came into the theater of operations as part
of the PUSH team and is regarded by his unit as a computer expert
of sorts. He is the son of Rev. Andrew D. Holt III, who serves
as an associate pastor of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church,
and Mary Bond Holt.
Holt has been with 489th for two years, and this
is his first time on overseas duty. He’s a student at
the University of Tennessee majoring in English.
Being called up for duty to Iraq meant he couldn’t
sign up for the fall semester last year, but said when his deployment
is over he will return to finish his degree. It’s sort
of a family tradition. He’s the grandson of former UT
President Andy Holt II.
The Knoxville native likes what he’s doing
right now and believes in the 489th’s mission to assist
in rebuilding the nation of Iraq.
"I’ll finish college, but this is something
I am proud to be a part of and it’s important to our nation’s
mission of helping to bring some sort of peace and representative
government to the Middle East," Holt said. "What we
take for granted back home is something most of these people
have never known and it is going to be a tough mission to accomplish."
As to being the unit’s computer guru, he
said he doesn’t know how he acquired the reputation, but
if there is a problem with a computer or anything digital, he’s
summoned to lend a hand.
"Everyone here has something a little unique
to offer the team and the best part of working with a Special
Operations Force like this is getting experience you would never
be able to get otherwise."
Iraq Journal: Troops entertained WIVK-style
By ED HOOPER, WIVK
February 17, 2004
BAGHDAD – Gunner and I made it to the radio
station at 2 p.m. local time. He started preparations for the
afternoon drive program with the Armed Forces Radio announcer
Specialist Abbey Cayanan.
Gunner and I were glad to be back around familiar
equipment again and he kicked off the program with an interview
from Charlie Daniels. AFR format is what they call a "Bright
Adult Contemporary" so they can cover all the differing
tastes in music the soldiers have. Country Music is something
many of the soldiers we met wanted to hear, especially since
most of those soldiers coming in to the Middle Eastern theater
are from Texas, Tennessee and Florida. Gunner followed Charlie
Daniels interview with Tim McGraw, Clint Black, Toby Keith and
others – playing their music following the interviews
thanking the troops here for what they are doing.
It still made for some interesting radio when Janet Jackson,
Godsmack and other pop entertainers followed the Country Music
selections. WIVK-FM donated the interviews, promotional liners,
and a Country Music library to the station for future use.
Armed Forces Radio is a tightly ran organization
and their format is a preselected one, but, after the broadcast,
AFR Baghdad Commander Lt. Colonel Matt Durham informed us the
station is going to open up its format and will now be adding
a Country Music to its format in the future.
"All in all this was an incredible broadcast
and Nashville entertainers were able to express their support
for the troops and let them know that most people in the Country
Music industry support what American soldiers are over here
doing. What they had to say to the troops was inspiring and
really lifted the spirits of those over here who won’t
see home again until the end of this year," Gunner said.
The special broadcast aired by 107.7 Baghdad was
well received by the staff at the station and the troops encountered
after the program.
"We really appreciated what you guys did
coming over here and thank you for the material," Colonel
Durham said. "The signal in Baghdad is broadcasted across
the nation of Iraq to American troops and a lot of them have
been wanting us to play more Country Music on the station. With
what we have from you now, it will be a great addition to the
U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer met downstairs during
Gunner's time on the air to make the announcement that the United
Nations is returning to Iraq. Security was especially tight
at the facility.
As we left the station, we sent some radio interviews
back to WIVK from the Coalition International Press Center.
The CIPC turned out to be an oasis in finding a communication
link back to the states. IT is located in the same building
and getting inside is difficult without a member of the 489th
escorting us. The transition is universal over here and getting
press identification through the various offices is difficult,
as people are still getting their offices organized.
As we headed back to our temporary home, Gunner
and I had to drop off the bus a mile back from our quarters
to catch a satellite signal for a special broadcast to a Maryville
High School assembly. Even Satellite phone communication here
is tough, especially at dusk or when cloud cover is overhead.
When we returned, we found out the soldiers of
the 489th had dropped what they were doing to be back in the
barracks to hear the broadcast. They cheered more than once
we were told, especially when Gunner dropped their names a couple
of times in the on air conversations between him and the AFR
Sergeant Joe Raeburn informed him he had "took one for
the team" when the format forced him to follow an interview
with a Michael Jackson tune. It was something Gunner wouldn’t
live down until this morning, when thoughts started turning
once again to the mission at hand.
Iraq Journal: Gunfire
common around dusk and dawn
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 18, 2004
BAGHDAD — The gunfire and explosions are
sounding a little closer each night.
Last night, following the hour-long evening prayers,
the sound of two heavy explosions was followed by the distinctive
bark of AK-47 and .50-caliber machineguns trading fire. It brought
a number of men to the door of the quarters to listen and see
what was out there. The gunfire always seems to happen around
dusk and again at dawn.
While the media is saying the hostilities in Iraq are escalating,
the soldiers here have very little information about what is
going on in the outside world and act like it is any other day
in the Army. Internet service is slow here and lines to call
home are so long that few people have the patience or the time
to wait in them.
We have started wearing our kevlar helmets wherever
we go now, especially when riding in military vehicles.
Some of the 489th are doing "ride-alongs"
with the outgoing civil affairs teams to get a look at their
new territories. Kingston native Sgt Charles Pilkington is a
member of one of those teams operating in the Red Zone. The
26-year-old father of three is looking forward to completing
this mission and getting home. He said the new activities of
terrorists in the country are nothing that surprises him.
"We're still going to have flare-ups every
now and then and will have to remind people that it isn't 100
percent safe and never will be. We have a job to do and it's
one I believe in and enjoy doing. You really get a chance to
meet some extraordinary people you will never forget."
Sgt. Charles Pilkington and his wife Lora are
expecting another child. He is currently a student at the University
of Tennessee and is in training as a conductor for Norfolk Southern
Railroad. Pilkington said that he really looks forward to getting
this mission behind him and getting home to his children.
Iraq Journal: 'Uncle
Joe's' nephew doing well
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 19, 2004
BAGHDAD — Sgt. John Hulquist is an assistant
team sergeant with Bravo Company's Team Five. The 22-year-old
has been with the 489th since he enlisted in the Army at age
The first time I met the Alcoa native he asked me if I had ever
worked with his Uncle Joe on stories. I couldn't say that I
had until he told me his "Uncle Joe" was Knoxville
City Councilman Joe Hultquist.
Sgt. John Hultquist is a Blount County native
who graduated from Alcoa High School and, after basic training,
found himself in Afghanistan attached to the only Civil Affairs
Battalion in the Asian nation.
"It was amazing the amount of work we had
to do there and no other civil affairs unit was around. The
one good thing about working with a C.A. is the fact that everyone
does three or four different jobs. I may work as a mechanic
one day, do force protection the next or communications depending
on the circumstances."
Hultquist said he likes his job in civil affairs
and loves the results he has seen from their work in the field.
"It is amazing when you see kids go to schools
they've never had or can receive medical attention. Civil affairs
has become an essential part of the Army's mission in foreign
nations where we have gone and it has been a successful operation
Hultquist hopes to finish his degree in political
science at Maryville College when he returns from this assignment.
"Maryville College has given me some of the
best support I have had in the Army Reserves," said Hultquist.
"I had to get out of school before the semester
started and then found out I wasn't going and reentered two
weeks late and had to come out two weeks early when the assignment
for Iraq came up. They really helped me get all the details
and paperwork worked out and have been extremely supportive
to members of the military serving this nation.
"I wouldn't want to go to any other college."
Sgt. Hultquist's parents, Chip and Teri Hultquist,
still reside in Blount County, as does his fiancA(C) Amy Dukes.
· Iraq Journal: Specialist is
veteran of two
Story coming soon.....
· Iraq Journal: Husband/wife both serving in Iraq
Story coming soon...
Iraq Journal: Roane County native the
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 20, 2004
BAGHDAD — Sergeant Jason Aydelott is a Roane
County native who specializes in "Force Protection"
for the 489th.
The stocky build gives him a distinct advantage
when it comes to handling heavy weapons. He is an assistant
team sergeant and also oversees their facilities and performs
maintenance to keep them operational for the troops.
Adeylott joined the Army just out of high school and served
briefly in Bosnia. When his term ended, he returned to his native
Kingston, joined up with the 489th in 2001 and received orders
to serve in Afghanistan.
Aydelott's knowledge and experience in hostile
situations have earned him a reputation as a fighter among the
troops of the 489th, and he is often picked for special assignments
when force protection is needed.
"I do a lot of things for the unit, but mainly
I'm a triggerman. We worked in small teams in Afghanistan and
that taught me a lot about doing my job successfully. When we
get into a hostile situation, I have to think of the team and
their safety. It comes first and everything else is secondary,"
Aydelott said.Before he left for Iraq, he married Cassandra
Jones of Wartburg, who is now residing with her parents in Morgan
County until Aydelott's term in Iraq is finished. Before entering
the service, Aydelott worked heavy construction and said that
is what he will probably do again.
"I think this is my last time downrange.
My knees are shot and I have an investment in a family construction
business that I want to take care of and it's time to start
building my civilian life at home."
Tension rises as troops on the move
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 24, 2004
Forward Operating Base Melody — Team Five
of Bravo Company moved out to their new base of operations today.
The tension rose we left the Green Zone and roared
through Central Baghdad. The gunner in the back of the vehicle
and the soldiers riding carefully watched every bridge, overpass
and vacant building.
We stayed in the center of the road and avoided
any object lying near the curb. Improvised Explosive Devices
were in the forefront of our minds as was watching everyone
who came near the convoy.
I sat right behind the driver and was told to
watch their hands and not their faces. If someone came near
us and I couldn't see what was in his or her hand, I was told
to yell out and give warning. It was no easy task as throngs
of people filled the streets and children came from nowhere
to try and sell whatever trinket or item they had to the troops.
The drivers were giving the hand signal to other
drivers to stop and the gunner in the back was yelling "Kaff"
-- Arabic for halt -- to stop drivers trying to ride past or
get in between the military vehicles.
The traffic was gridlocked, and no traffic signal
operated. You can still see the damage from the bombing, but
you could also see the efforts under way to rebuild.
Driving a vehicle of any kind in Baghdad is a
true test in "survival of the fittest." The military
convoy we were in bobbed and weaved through downtown overcoming
big trucks and dilapidated cars to make it to the safety of
Upon arriving, we found three soldiers in Iraqi
Army uniforms standing guard at the gate and were curious about
the number of Iraqi soldiers walking freely around the base.
The new Iraqi Army is now a working part of the coalition forces
and learning basic military tactics and operations. We found
around a dozen of them gathered in a circle just inside the
base walls learning how to assemble and disassemble their AK47s.
U.S. soldiers were there with them showing how to fix bayonets
onto the end of their rifles and how to overcome a situation
where one might jam.
"American soldiers have really been a help
to the men teaching them about their weapons and showing them
how a soldier performs his duties. Some have served in the Iraqi
Army before, but none have received this much training,"
said their Iraqi captain.
This is an example of what is now being seen across
Iraq. There have been few problems except some have seen the
rank they held in the old Iraqi Army reduced. In a couple of
cases, officers have been reassigned as Sergeants in reorganization,
but the captain said Coalition Forces did so with reason.
"Many men fled Iraqi Army when the bombs
came and part of reorganizing means starting from scratch again
so many who were officers were reassigned to lower ranks. With
so few men, it makes little sense tohave officers. We rebuild
now, help Coalition Forces and work to protect our people."
Government by growing pains
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 24, 2004
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MELODY — Establishing
a representative government in Iraq is no easy task for a people
who have been ruled by a totalitarian regime for more than 30
The Army's Civil Affairs battalions have put the
wheels in place by starting at the bottom and working their
way up from the neighborhood streets to the community to the
districts within Baghdad. Each one has "advisory councils"
with elected representatives. The Army identifies them respectively
with the acronyms NAC, CAC and DAC.
The Civil Affairs soldiers have held classes on occasion to
teach the newly elected representatives "Roberts Rules
of Order" so they can get a basic grasp on parliamentary
procedure and how meetings should be conducted. The meetings
more or less give the Iraqi people at varying levels the opportunities
to see about getting streetlights replaced, restoring utilities
and general reconstruction of neighborhoods plagued by poverty
and too many years of neglect.
U.S. forces and Iraqi police, who protected the
representatives and civil affairs soldiers, heavily guarded
the DAC meeting we attended. It was like many City Council meetings
I have covered over the years as a reporter, except this was
more about building an independent government rather than doing
maintenance to support one.
Two women sat on the council. One was recognized
for her efforts to get kerosene to her district and for holding
classes teaching Iraqi women how to read and write. The other
issue she brought before the council was one to establish some
sort of child care for working women, which is a new phenomenon
for the Islamic nation.
I learned that old habits die hard, however, especially
in the matter of a free press in Baghdad. A gentleman, who asked
not to be named, brought the issue of establishing a newspaper
to cover the progress of the DAC.
Through a translator, I immediately heard the
voices of dissent from some of the committee members as voices
started rising in the forum."You are a man of many opinions,"
said one. "We can not have bad things published about the
council or the committees."
"You must toe the line and not write about
our problems," another added. "It will cause problems
for you and us."
The newspaperman held his ground and fought to
maintain his editorial control giving as good as he got and
telling the committee he must be able to report the truth and
keep people informed. The end result was the formation of a
committee to study it, but the newspaperman was adamant about
venturing forward. It is a serious matter in Iraq and one of
obvious danger should a story question or somehow offends one
of the members.While it is a matter the Iraqis must work out
for themselves, the Civil Affairs people are quito tell you
a free and independent news media is necessary in Baghdad for
more than one reason.
"We have to make sure in a way that an Iraqi
free press is established here that people trust. We have seen
suicide bombings where bad guys have sent their followers into
the crowds around the site to start rumors -- pointing at U.S.
helicopters coming in to get the wounded and telling them Americans
bombed it and the people believe the rumor over anything we
or their own people will tell them.
So newspaper, radio and television news are important
parts of establishing any sort of representative government
here and helping to win the peace," said 489th Bravo Company
Commander Major Greg Jackson.Private efforts are already at
work trying to establish a national broadcast news media to
provide information to Iraqis currently unavailable through
WIVK team headed home
By ED HOOPER, WIVK News
February 26, 2004
BAGHDAD — Today is the day we depart from the Green Zone
in Baghdad and begin the journey back to Tennessee.
It's the beginning of the Islamic Holiday of Eid.
The celebratory fire from Baghdad across the Tigris has been
going on for the last two days and raising tension among the
troops, especially at night when the big guns start firing.
We don't know if it is our guys or the Iraqis.
We have been together since we first landed in Kuwait and set
up to push the teams of the 489th toward Iraq. There were some
tears and hugs as we have become extremely close with these
soldiers over the last month.
I'll personally miss Sgt. "Big Daddy"
Joe Raeburn's coffee in the evening and sharing the quiet time,
when we escaped the noise of the close quarters for a while.
As his name implies, he is a first-rate soldier with years of
experience and a man of the honor one expects from a seasoned
When he isn't downrange in some combat zone, he's
off in his civilian job training police officers. Raeburn is
the last man down at night after he has done a headcount and
checked his flock and the first up to get the day's schedule
The growling bass voice of his became a familiar
sound in the barracks and one I listened for every morning to
let me know the day had started.
These are the people with whom Gunner and I started
this journey. The ones we huddled together with in Kuwait to
stay warm and those soldiers we sat on our cots with while rockets,
mortars and gunfire echoed throughout the night and those who
we rode through the streets of Baghdad with on missions.
Holt, Waterfield, Harrison, Fowler, Biel, Cox,
Williams, Aydelott, Jackson, Stewart, Pascall, "Wolf"
and Hague are others to name a few who have become a part of
our daily life for the last month and will be missed. This is
largely a team of Tennesseans any native would be proud to call
their own. These Civil Affairs units carry with them the responsibility
of being the United States' new "Marshall Plan" for
rebuilding today's war-torn nations in the Middle East.
They are soldiers with rifles and weapons at the
ready, but primarily are here to rebuild and reconstruct a nation
in ruins. They have become an invaluable tool to the Army, proved
themselves in Afghanistan and Bosnia, and there is talk now
in Army command of creating regular duty Civil Affairs units,
as there is only one currently not made up of reserve elements.
After this experience, I can honestly say my sentiment
towards the U.S. Army Reserves has changed. They are not the
"weekend warriors" we have seen lampooned over the
years. The soldiers in this group have seen more action in combat
zones than most Army personnel I have known over the years.
These men and women are the future of the armed
forces and doing the job of active duty soldiers as if they
have their entire careers. For some, their "one weekend
a month and two weeks a year" has meant constant deployment
to Haiti, Central America, Afghanistan and now Iraq.
The employers back in Tennessee who hold jobs
for these soldiers or aid them and thecolleges and universities
who work with them are to be commended and praised. Even with
the rules and regulations in effect, many reserve soldiers have
seen their pay cut by 60 percent, lost their homes because they
can't make a mortgage and serve the nation.
Patriotism is not something one wears on their
sleeve when in fashion and I have seen it here on every one
of these men and women's faces from the enlisted ranks to the
officers who command them -- and not one U.S. flag in sight
to remind them. You have to remember they are not here because
of a draft, but because they volunteered to serve their nation.
While they serve and protect us, it is important for us to serve
and protect those businesses and institutions that support them.
I know and knew many of their fathers and grandfathers
over the years and have written about some of them. As I look
out over this group, the future of our state doesn't look too
bad. Some of the faces we will see again in classrooms, elected
office and in day-to-day life as productive citizens. They will
leave here eventually and return to their civilian jobs or finish
their college careers.
While I bring back with me phone numbers of loved
ones to contact to let them know their husbands and sons are
okay and a list of things they will need from us back home,
I also bring with me a new sense of pride and hope -- not only
for these soldiers' service in assisting to restore the Iraqi
government to it's people, but for their service to America's
government as well.
As I close out this journal, the Humvees and troop
carriers are cranked up and running, equipment is loaded, and
the soldiers are in full battle dress in the truck beds readying
to leave for their forward operating bases across Iraq. Gunner
and I have our gear loaded in another headed for the Public
Affairs Office, who will transport us to Baghdad International
Airport for the flight to the states.
While we are anxious and nervous to get started
home, what I remember most vividly at this moment are the words
of the 489th Bravo Company's Commanding Officer Major Greg Jackson
and Alpha Company's Commanding Officer Major Jeff Coggin. "Don't
let them forget us back home."
I pray we never do.
Ed Hooper has 15 years of experience in East Tennessee
working as a broadcast and print journalist covering Knoxville
and the Southern Appalachian region.
Prior to working as news anchor and general assignment
reporter for WIVK-FM - WNOX-AM in Knoxville, he worked as a
columnist and news editor for the Tennessee Journal, freelanced
as a photographer and writer for various regional and national
magazines, hosted two syndicated radio series, worked as a television
news anchor and special assignment reporter, wrote and hosted
the historical documentary series "Bicentennial Moments"
and anchored the "Viewpoint" talk show.
He holds more than 50 regional, state and national
awards for excellence in investigative, general assignment,
feature and public service journalism, including being the recipient
of the United States Department of Defense's highest civilian
award for his work in military affairs reporting.
He was unanimously conferred the state title of
"Bard Laureate" by the 102nd Tennessee General Assembly
for his efforts documenting the state's colorful past —
many of the documentaries and columns he has produced on Tennesseans
in American history are featured in archives and museums across
the United States.
Hooper is also credited with noted journalistic
projects such as focusing national attention on the plight of
a 1,500-year-old Mississippian Mound and battlefield causeway
at Shiloh National Park, aiding in the preservation of numerous
historical landmarks in both Tennessee and the Southeast and
coordinating educational programs on the state's heritage for
He is a member of the board of the East Society
of Professional Journalists, South Knoxville Lodge F&AM
and serves as trustee of the National Medal of Honor Museum
of Military History, where he led the effort to properly mark
the gravesites of the state's noted veterans and Medal of Honor
recipients. His efforts as a journalist in historical preservation
moved him to create the Tennessee Online Internet site at www.tennesseehistory.com,
which now serves as a teaching and tutoring tool aiding more
than 25,000 students per year in the study of Tennessee history.
Sources: Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's
Who in the South and Southwest, Knox County Commission, Knoxville
News Sentinel, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gale Net Biographical
WIVK afternoon Announcer
Gunner, a born-and-raised-in-East Tennessee cowboy,
is fulfilling a life long dream by working at WIVK. Owning two
East Tennessee farms, Gunner doesn't play country, he lives
Gunner was recently honored as one of the top
five DJ's in the country by the Marconi Awards.
Gunner broadcasts live with his horse, Prince,
"the smartest horse in radio." Gunner can be found
on "the ride home" between 3 and 7 p.m. on WIVK 107.7.