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Akron TV anchor reports home from duty in Iraq
Akron Beacon Journal ^ | Dec. 26,2003 | Bob Dyer

Posted on 12/26/2003 8:06:01 AM PST by Molly Pitcher

Akron TV anchor reports home from duty in Iraq Guardsman with family for holidays shares story he says we're

Not many people go from reporting the news to making it. Even fewer would want to -- at least not if they found themselves in Eric Mansfield's boots.

Until January, the veteran television journalist had spent 17 years moonlighting with the National Guard. He joined so he could afford college and he stayed because he liked it.

When all hell was about to break loose in Iraq, Capt. Mansfield was called up to active duty. Suddenly, he went from sitting behind the anchor desk at Akron's WVPX (Channel 23) to fighting a war.

There's not much difference between the two jobs.

Well, other than the constant threat of mortar attacks.

Other than land mines.

Other than living among red scorpions the size of your fist.

Other than outdoor latrines.

Other than the fact that anything you touch could be booby-trapped -- even dead animals.

Other than the relentless sand fleas.

Other than the weather -- highs of 130 in the summer and lows this month in the 40s.

Other than a major pay cut. (He's earning $150 a day.)

Other than the rats that crawl on you when you're in bed. (Actually, it's a cot, not a bed. A 6-foot-long cot for a 6-foot-3 body.)

Other than the huge camels that run by, wild, in packs.

Other than the omnipresent sand, which, lifted by winds as high as 50 mph, stings your skin as if you're standing in front of a sand-blasting machine and winds up in every crevice of your body.

Other than the absence of beer. (Heck, even water was hard to come by for a while.)

Other than being away from the four things he values more than anything else in the world: his wife of nearly 13 years, Lisa, and his three sons, Joshua, 9, Jacob, 6, and Teddy, 2 ½.

Nearly a year later, Mansfield is home. He's in the midst of a two-week R&R stint that will last through New Year's Day.

Mansfield had to spend his own money -- $1,200 round trip -- and fly for 24 consecutive hours, across eight time zones. But he considers that a small price to pay to spend the holidays with his family.

He has missed a year's worth of birthdays and holidays. His youngest son has nearly doubled in age.

The family is ecstatic to have him home, however briefly. And we are the beneficiaries of his journalist's eye for detail.

Colors of the desert

``Everything over there is green, brown or tan,'' he muses. ``Everything. Even the food.''

Mansfield, 35, is a transportation officer for the 371st Corps Support Group. He works in a tent on the Kuwait-Iraq border and tracks troops and equipment with laptop computers that are fed information from satellites.

``It's really pretty cool,'' he says, ``because we can send an e-mail right to the cab of the truck out there in Baghdad. Tell them, `Don't take this road, it's flooded.' `Don't take this road, there's bad guys.' `Don't take this road, there's mines.' ''

The convoys can e-mail Mansfield, too, providing information or requesting help.

That was not the case when he first arrived in in April. Communications were a mess.

``I was monitoring dozens of convoys and I didn't know where they were,'' he says. ``It was the first time we were testing these types of systems and they just didn't work in the desert. Regular radios didn't work. Cell phones didn't work. It was a helpless feeling.''

What we're not hearing

Predictably, Mansfield, a North High graduate who had been anchoring the 6:30 p.m. newscast on Channel 23, hasn't lost his journalistic instincts. And he is amazed at some of the stories the media are missing.

Those stories are falling through the cracks, he implies, because most reporters would rather sit around at base camps and use material supplied by the military instead of venturing into the dangerous desert.

The biggest story we're not getting, he says, is the huge number of successes the U.S. military has enjoyed in foiling terrorists.

``We had a small ship try to ram one of our cargo ships right before I left. If it had hit and blown us up like the USS Cole, then it would have made news. But our guys were alert enough and shot the thing 75 meters off the bow. I didn't see anything (in the news).

``We've got this terrorist stuff every day. We're stopping package bombs, car bombs, people with bombs strapped to them. We're taking caches of weapons away from people. Is it just me, or isn't that news anymore?''

Another story flying under the media's radar is a technological breakthrough.

``We have this new, fancy technology called a Warlock system. Without telling you how it works, it basically knocks out the systems of the bad guys so they can't detonate anything when we come by. We're just now putting them into trucks. That's a great story!''

Another untold story, he says, is terrorists' targeting of female soldiers. ``They want to kidnap female soldiers for the shock value of it. (Non-American) females over there don't speak. When (Iraqis) see a female soldier, they are absolutely in shock.''

Mansfield's closest call came in mid-October, when he was working at a camp north of Baghdad code-named Anaconda. In the middle of the night, the base was hit by a mortar attack. If you haven't experienced one, ``it feels like (the scene in) Jurassic Park, when you hear the dinosaur in the distance.''

``The water glass starts shaking. And the sound gets a little louder and a little louder and a little louder....

``I was terrified.''

The problem was resolved by an American A-10 ``Wart Hog,'' which flew in and tossed a couple of 500-pound bombs in the right spot.

Time brings changes

As you might imagine, Mansfield's days in the hostile desert have changed his outlook on life.

``I see all the little things I used to get upset about, used to argue with people about, that don't matter at all,'' he says, sitting on the sofa in his living room as son Josh plays nearby.

``The reality is if you have a healthy family that loves you, you've got a roof over your head, then you've got the whole world.

``Like a lot of guys, I used to get real petty and competitive. Everybody's real success-driven, especially in television. I don't care if I ever get another news story. I want to be the best father and husband I can be.''

Mansfield credits part of his change in perspective to having read the entire New Testament.

As they say, there are no atheists in foxholes. But this soldier is not an Eric-come-lately. He and his wife have been members of The Chapel for a dozen years.

In fact, Mansfield exchanged battlefield e-mails with the chief pastor, Knute Larson. Mansfield wanted some help in figuring out a few Bible passages. Larson accommodated him with detailed responses.

As an emergency backup, perhaps, Mansfield is carrying a lucky silver dollar. The well-worn coin, minted in 1922, has been passed down through four generations of his family.

It originally belonged to his great-grandfather, Max Musser, who acquired it after serving in World War I.

His grandfather, Frank Mansfield, carried it during World War II.

His uncle, Jim Mansfield (who runs the Stonehedge bowling alley on Cuyahoga Falls Avenue), toted it around during the Vietnam War.

Jim, who had no sons of his own, handed it to Eric.

Mansfield clearly is weary of putting his own life on hold. He knew the risk he was taking by staying in the Guard, he says, but he's shocked that people like him -- Guardsmen and reserves -- have been required to serve for such a long time.

``Some of these guys had already done a year stateside,'' he says, shaking his head. ``Then to go a year in Iraq -- and then extend them! You might as well join for two years of active duty!''

He predicts a mass exodus from the Guard and reserves after they return, triggering a need to reinstitute the draft.

``I don't think people realize that Bosnia is almost purely National Guard reservists. So is Kosovo. We were supposed to be out of those places.''

As the American death toll inches toward 500, Mansfield wants civilians to keep one thing in mind:

``This is not action heroes doing this. These are real people making sacrifices. I'm working with teachers, plumbers, college students, firefighters, police officers.... We're all sacrificing. Everybody (at home) can do their part.''

Members of his church completed a treehouse Mansfield had started for his kids and helped with yard work.

If one of your neighbors is serving, he says, offer to rake the family's leaves. Offer to watch the kids for two hours. Call up, and ask what day they want you to deliver lasagna. Take out their garbage.

``Nothing helps me endure the stress over there better than knowing my family is being taken care of back here.''


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; US: Ohio; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: champions; goodguys; iraq; iraw; nationalguard; ohionationalguard; peace; personalaccount; terrorism; waronterror
This was a wonderful piece to find in this morning's paper.

I just pray it changes some hearts and minds of some of the naysayers who read it.

1 posted on 12/26/2003 8:06:02 AM PST by Molly Pitcher
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To: ohioWfan; DollyCali; The Raven; Dog; CONSERVE; ResistorSister; W.; dutchess
Direct from Iraq: some good post-holiday news!!
2 posted on 12/26/2003 8:07:40 AM PST by Molly Pitcher (I miss Bob Bartley....)
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To: Molly Pitcher
Our people in Kosovo and Bosnia need to come home. There is no clear mission, and it appears Bosnia/Kosovo are the real "quagmires" which the mainstream media constantly harps about when referring to Iraq. /rant
3 posted on 12/26/2003 8:13:13 AM PST by stylin_geek (Koffi: 0, G.W. Bush: (I lost count)
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To: Molly Pitcher
Thank you Molly, it just shows, again, how our lazy presstitutes do not report the whole news.

Remember, we were to be in Bosnia ONE year?

lysie, I'm so sorry about your Dad. One day he'll realize there's more to life than politics.

john, did I read you fixed dinner for your family, yesterday? That made my heart feel warm, for you.
4 posted on 12/26/2003 8:37:37 AM PST by tillacum (It takes a President and a Mighty Military with cajones to find Spider Hussein)
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To: Molly Pitcher; Ragtime Cowgirl; Grampa Dave; BOBTHENAILER; Dog
A great story!
5 posted on 12/26/2003 8:40:47 AM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach (Davis is now out of Arnoold's Office , Bout Time!!!!)
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To: Molly Pitcher; HiJinx; Spiff; JackelopeBreeder; Old Sarge; Da Jerdge
The biggest story we're not getting, he says, is the huge number of successes the U.S. military has enjoyed in foiling terrorists.

An indictment of his peers in the media?

``We had a small ship try to ram one of our cargo ships right before I left. If it had hit and blown us up like the USS Cole, then it would have made news. But our guys were alert enough and shot the thing 75 meters off the bow. I didn't see anything (in the news).

Didn't go the way the LIBERALS and the media (sorry I'm being redundant) wanted it to go so it does not make the news.

``We've got this terrorist stuff every day. We're stopping package bombs, car bombs, people with bombs strapped to them. We're taking caches of weapons away from people. Is it just me, or isn't that news anymore?''

Not going the way the LIBERALS and the media (sorry I'm being redundant) want it to go (proof of a Vietnam style Quagmire) so it is not fit to make the news.

Another story flying under the media's radar is a technological breakthrough.

It's flying under the radar it just doe not fit the AGENDA.

``We have this new, fancy technology called a Warlock system. Without telling you how it works, it basically knocks out the systems of the bad guys so they can't detonate anything when we come by. We're just now putting them into trucks. That's a great story!''

Sorry that's good news and it does not fit the agenda of "It's a Quagmire! We have to pull out now and elect a pantie waist LIBERAL Neville Chamberlain in '04!"

Another untold story, he says, is terrorists' targeting of female soldiers. ``They want to kidnap female soldiers for the shock value of it. (Non-American) females over there don't speak. When (Iraqis) see a female soldier, they are absolutely in shock.''

DACOWITS social experiment validating all that was said by what they belittled as MALE Neanderthal thinking to keep women down and deny them opportunity.

6 posted on 12/26/2003 8:41:34 AM PST by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: Molly Pitcher
Thanks for the ping
7 posted on 12/26/2003 8:57:46 AM PST by CONSERVE
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To: Molly Pitcher
He predicts a mass exodus from the Guard and reserves after they return, triggering a need to reinstitute the draft.

Perhaps. But I don't think as much as he implies. These Guardsmen will now be eligible for VA benefits since they have been on active duty beyond the required 180 days. The officers will all be ripe with active duty experience and expect promotion. Bush is using the guard the way it should have been used in Vietnam. As a former Air National Guardsmen, I think Bush saw a lot of the "Good Ol' Boy" network in the Guard/Reserve organizations and views using them as a way to get rid of the dead wood. Reorganization is more likely than a mass exodus and a draft.

8 posted on 12/26/2003 9:17:33 AM PST by elbucko
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To: Molly Pitcher
Excellent article Molly. It reminds us of a very important point. The wives who are left behind could use some support as well. Shoveling some snow, taking care of the kids so she can get away for a few hours, just visiting her to let her know you care is very important. Especially the wives of Guardsmen, they often don't have the support systems the wives who live on or around base have.
9 posted on 12/26/2003 9:31:59 AM PST by McGavin999
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To: Molly Pitcher
``We have this new, fancy technology called a Warlock system. Without telling you how it works, it basically knocks out the systems of the bad guys so they can't detonate anything when we come by. We're just now putting them into trucks. That's a great story!''

That must be what Musharraf has. I'm glad our soliders are getting it. It's about time.

10 posted on 12/26/2003 9:45:46 AM PST by Moonman62
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To: Molly Pitcher
I notice the article started with all the negative stuff. That's all most people read.
11 posted on 12/26/2003 9:46:50 AM PST by Moonman62
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To: Moonman62; tillacum; elbucko; McGavin999; All
Yes, there's certainly some negative stuff here, and maybe folks will focus on that.

I didn't, & maybe just maybe some will go beyond the first paragraphs....scorpions, land mines, outdoor latrines...

12 posted on 12/26/2003 10:28:13 AM PST by Molly Pitcher (I miss Bob Bartley....)
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To: Molly Pitcher
I didn't notice any negative stuff at all, I thought it was a great article. I just pointed out that it's important to remember the wives of the guardsmen who are struggling at home.
13 posted on 12/26/2003 10:44:41 AM PST by McGavin999
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To: Molly Pitcher; Ernest_at_the_Beach; bert; MJY1288; Calpernia; Grampa Dave; anniegetyourgun; ...
Great post, Molly. Thanks!
Ernest, we're working on that 'keyword.'
(^:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Until January, the veteran television journalist had spent 17 years moonlighting with the National Guard. He joined so he could afford college and he stayed because he liked it....

There's not much difference between the two jobs.

Well, other than the constant threat of mortar attacks.

Other than land mines.

Other than living among red scorpions the size of your fist...

Predictably, Mansfield, a North High graduate who had been anchoring the 6:30 p.m. newscast on Channel 23, hasn't lost his journalistic instincts. And he is amazed at some of the stories the media are missing.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Capt. Eric Mansfield, 35, from Akron, Ohio ~ journalist, father of two, husband, Christian ~ transportation officer for the 371st Corps Support Group ~ National Guard, helping our troops on the road in Iraq avoid IEDs, enemies, and natural disasters.


14 posted on 12/26/2003 11:03:35 AM PST by Ragtime Cowgirl ( "Our military is full of the finest people on the face of the earth." ~ Pres. Bush, Baghdad)
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To: Molly Pitcher

Here is a picture of the guy, I hope that he has a long career in broadcasting and uses the knowledge that he possesses to change journalism for the better.

Even though his and his family's current sacrifice for our country is great and noble, changing journalism would be a harder task, and ultimately have greater rewards.

15 posted on 12/26/2003 11:25:23 AM PST by DeSoto
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To: Molly Pitcher
Since Fat Willy got us bogged down in Kosvo that's ok with the media and the Dem's. Iraq is however another matter for the 'Left Wing Weasel's'.

Good post though, you won't hear anything good coming out of Iraq unless you have someone in the military or a piece like this comes along.
16 posted on 12/26/2003 11:37:56 AM PST by vladog
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To: Molly Pitcher
Great Article, Molly. Thanks for posting it.
17 posted on 12/26/2003 11:40:39 AM PST by Iowa Granny
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To: McGavin999; Ragtime Cowgirl; Iowa Granny
I didn't mean you specifically, McGavin, as finding the article negative. Sorry to be confusing - it's that kind of day for me - I just included you in the address line, cause you had responded.

Glad ya'll liked it.

18 posted on 12/26/2003 11:47:45 AM PST by Molly Pitcher (I miss Bob Bartley....)
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To: DeSoto; vladog
Glad you liked it. Thanks for the comments...
19 posted on 12/26/2003 11:48:30 AM PST by Molly Pitcher (I miss Bob Bartley....)
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To: Ragtime Cowgirl; Molly Pitcher
Mass email bump!

Molly, could you clarify something for me before I send this out? In the post above, the first sentence is truncated. Did you find it that way, or could you supply what is missing? Thanks! GREAT ARTICLE!!!
20 posted on 12/26/2003 12:07:25 PM PST by TEXOKIE (Hold fast what thou hast received!)
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To: Molly Pitcher
Nevermind!! I clicked on your link and got it! (***DUH!***)

"Guardsman with family for holidays shares story he says we're not getting"
21 posted on 12/26/2003 12:12:22 PM PST by TEXOKIE (Hold fast what thou hast received!)
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To: TEXOKIE
That was my mistake, TEX, when I posted it....cut it off accidentally.
22 posted on 12/26/2003 12:40:39 PM PST by Molly Pitcher (I miss Bob Bartley....)
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To: SandRat
If I responded to this the way I really want to, the Viking Kitties would descend upon me...
23 posted on 12/26/2003 12:57:51 PM PST by Old Sarge
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To: vladog
Good post though, you won't hear anything good coming out of Iraq unless you have someone in the military or a piece like this comes along.

We've been finding, posting and sharing good news from Iraq daily for over 7 months. We don't get most of it from the mainstream press. We're bypassing the press and taking it to the people.

If you want on or off my Pro-Coalition ping list, please Freepmail me. Warning: it is a high volume ping list on good days. (Most days are good days).

24 posted on 12/26/2003 1:18:23 PM PST by Ragtime Cowgirl ( "Our military is full of the finest people on the face of the earth." ~ Pres. Bush, Baghdad)
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To: Ragtime Cowgirl
Bump!
25 posted on 12/26/2003 3:51:44 PM PST by windchime (Podesta about Bush: "He's got four years to try to undo all the stuff we've done." (TIME-1/22/01))
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To: Molly Pitcher
Until January, the veteran television journalist had spent 17 years moonlighting with the National Guard. He joined so he could afford college and he stayed because he liked it.

Well, yes. We pay taxes for college and training for these people so that we can use them as necessary. I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for the ones who moan when they have to do what they're trained for.

This guy doesn't sound like one of the biggest complainers, and I know several National Guards who were more than willing to put their training to use.
Most of us commend the career military, and we should also commend the National Guard - I would only except the ones who got their college paid for and whine about living up to their end of the bargain. That's very few, but enough for the mainstream media to generate many stories.

26 posted on 12/26/2003 4:41:33 PM PST by speekinout
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To: Molly Pitcher
Those stories are falling through the cracks, he implies, because most reporters would rather sit around at base camps and use material supplied by the military instead of venturing into the dangerous desert. The biggest story we're not getting, he says, is the huge number of successes the U.S. military has enjoyed in foiling terrorists

I'd wager another reason the success stories are "falling through the cracks" is that to report them would conflict with the viewpoint of the various reporters' employers, e.g., CBS, NY Times, etc.

Good story, thanks for posting!

27 posted on 12/26/2003 4:48:51 PM PST by mountaineer
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To: Ragtime Cowgirl
Bump!
28 posted on 12/27/2003 7:53:05 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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