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Old 01-07-2005, 07:45 AM
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Default Soldiers seeking soldiers

Soldiers seeking soldiers

Three soldiers ? a young officer and two seasoned fighters ? came under fire Thursday morning in Stu McCurdy's classroom ? no holds barred, no topics restricted.

The barrage of questions in Room 305 at Yakima's Eisenhower High School saw no bounds. And students asked the tough questions up front:

Have you ever been shot?

"No, I have never been directly hit, no."

If you were shot, would you get a Purple Heart?

"Yes. I don't want one."

Do you think if Osama bin Laden shaved his beard you'd be able to recognize him?

"Uh ..."

Then Sgt. Ernesto Escobar, who's put in 17 years with the Army, told the teens that if he had caught the terrorist leader, no, he wouldn't receive $1 million.

The 35-year-old tank commander returned from Iraq in April. Now he's working at the Army recruiting center in Yakima.

Thursday, he talked with students about the Army, along with Capt. Rob Patton, commander of the recruiting center, and Lt. Stu McCurdy, the teacher's 22-year-old son and a 2000 Ike graduate.

"I think it's important that students are exposed to people from all different kinds of careers," said the elder McCurdy, a 54-year-old history, math and debate teacher. "As a social studies teacher, I want students to get a sense of the world around them."

Plus, "What could be better than being able to show off my son?"

McCurdy's son has been in Yakima for two weeks, working with local recruiters. He departs Tuesday for Fort Polk, La., where he'll be in charge of 40 to 60 soldiers. In six months to a year, the platoon leader expects to deploy to Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.

"The Army gives you skills you can't really get anywhere else," he said.

At Ike, McCurdy was senior class president. In 2004, he graduated from Central Washington University in Ellensburg with a degree in aviation management and plenty of ROTC training. Now the young officer is looking forward to his first overseas mission.

Besides bullets and other munitions, the two experienced soldiers spoke of other hazards they had to combat while they served overseas: sunburn, frostbite, malaria, camel spiders the size of a man's hand.

"It's probably a lot worse than I thought it was," said Tyler Fryatt, a 15-year-old sophomore. "But (soldiers) are not always scared."

The soldiers passed around old Iraqi money and photographs from their deployments. Patton, who served in Afghanistan, brought a burka, the traditional dress of Muslim women. A couple of girls got to try it on.

"It was hot and you couldn't see very well at all," said Courtney Pierone, a 16-year-old junior who tried on the burka. "I wouldn't like it."

Temperatures climbed to 125 degrees in Afghanistan, Patton said. The 32-year-old has been in the Army nearly 11 years. A jump master, he's hurled himself out of an airplane 32 times.

And no, he's never ridden a camel, "But I've seen a lot of them."

"A lot of kids haven't had any exposure to what the Army is other than what they see on the news," Patton said. "There's a lot of myths and rumors out there, and we wanted to dispel those rumors, give first-person experiences to the kids so they can hear for themselves what it's like."

Most students wanted to know, is war scary?

"Little bit," Patton said. "Everybody is a little scared. They're lying if they tell you they're not. But your training takes over."

Have you ever had to shoot someone?

"No," Patton said.

"Yes," answered Escobar.

How many?

"I don't know."

And none of the three soldiers had an answer for Javier Solorio, a 15-year-old sophomore, who called out, "When do you think it's going to end?"

GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic
Eisenhower High School student Courtney Pierone tried on a burka with the help of U.S. Army Sgt. Ernesto Escobar during an Army presentation Thursday in Pierone's history class. Pierone, a junior, said she found the burka hot and that she couldn't see much through the covering.

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