Saturday, September 15th, 2007
Marine's perspective of Iraq
By William Kincaid
United States Marine Corporal Adam Beougher talks with Grand Lake Christian Scho. . .
ST. MARYS - A picture of smiling children waving American flags outside a U.S. airbase in Al Asad, Iraq, while friendly Arabic men warmly greet U.S. military personnel is not the portrait of war-ravaged Iraq Americans are used to.
But Corporal Adam Beougher of the U.S. Marines offered students at Grand Lake Christian School in St. Marys his version of a largely appreciative Al Asad population during a presentation at the school's chapel on Friday morning.
"They're just people like me and you," the 22-year-old Parkway High School graduate said.
Beougher, the son of Mark Beougher, Celina, and Leighann Osborn, Rockford, took time out of his brief two-week break to speak of his duties and experiences as an air traffic corporal at the U.S. air base - which he said is about the size of St. Marys -in the arid desert of Al Asad.
Next week, he will travel back to Iraq for a second 7-month-tour.
As corporal of air traffic at the base, Beougher told the students he was responsible for loading and unloading the cargo and personnel of almost every aircraft. His duty was to ensure all people and items arrive at their destinations in Iraq or elsewhere.
Some of his day-to-day experiences included living in a small trailer in "Can City;" averting snakes, spiders and sandstorms; pulling pranks on fellow servicemen; and sleeping with his M-16 rifle.
"You never go anywhere without your weapon in Iraq," he said.
Beougher then fielded an array of questions from the curious students.
When asked if he had ever came close to dying, the corporal said he has remained unscathed so far. Beougher pointed out that he witnessed an armored vehicle ahead of his flip over after activating an improvised explosive device. While flying in a helicopter, he also heard shots "whizz by" from enemy ground fire.
The unabashed children also asked if Beougher if he had handled a bazooka or grenade launcher. They also wanted to know if young recruits in boot camp have to clean areas up with a toothbrush for punishment.
"Yes, that is true ... you will have to do that," he said with a grin.
Another student asked if he had ever killed any one.
Beougher said he has never had to shoot anyone. However, he has had to point his rifle at an Iraqi in order to stop him after a communication breakdown.
Questions eventually focused on the people of Iraq and the American perspective of the war via the media.
"They're a really scared type of people," he said about the average Iraqi.
Because the people are not used to freedom, they are full of trepidation. But in the presence of U.S. forces, Beougher said the people open up and become very happy.
He also pointed out many of the people's dedication to religion, as they will immediately begin praying during required times.
"Boom ... they're down praying," he said.
Beougher also told the students there are some Christian Iraqis.
"There is a few of them," he said. "They don't really try and draw attention to themselves."
Beougher expressed frustration with Americans asking for the withdrawal of troops.
"We're already over here, so why don't you support (the troops)," he said.
He also believes the American media has skewed people's perspectives of the war through various slants.
"I'd like to take them (journalists) to where I'm at," he said.
Elementary teacher Kerri Lehmann, whose family has become close to Beougher through the Celina Baptist Temple, said students at the school have continually thought of Beougher and other U.S. service men and women.
"They've been praying for him all year," she said.
Lehmann's family has also communicated with Beougher through a computer Web cam.
"He's a real close friend," she said. "He's like a son to me."