Coming and going

As one serviceman returns home, another readies for tour of duty in Iraq


One is a sailor; the other a Marine.

One is home from duty in a war zone; the other leaves for Iraq next month.

One has seen, and felt, the Middle East first-hand; the other will be in a different culture for the first time and is trying to learn some Arabic from language tapes.

But John Staggs, the sailor, and Adam Swanson, the Marine, have more in common than even they first thought.

Both have mothers in Craig.

Both are in the business of finding explosives.

And both men share the belief that American troops need to stay in the Persian Gulf until the region is stable.

"Just like anything, it's going to take time," Staggs said.

Swanson agrees that the United States needs to finish the job it started in Iraq.

"We should be there," he said. "We can't leave it in chaos."

It was by coincidence that the two servicemen found themselves in Craig this week.

Staggs is in Craig visiting his mother after six months on a U.S. Navy ship in the Persian Gulf. Swanson is in town for a few days before he is deployed to Iraq next month.

Thursday afternoon, Staggs and Swanson sat down to talk about what Staggs saw in his six months in the Gulf, and what Swanson can expect to see when he gets to the region.

Same but different

Staggs' experience on a ship in the Gulf is different from what Swanson can expect at a Marine base in Iraq, the two men said. But the two also found that their jobs have similarities.

Staggs was on a minesweeping ship based in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain. The ship patrolled the gulf and rivers of Iraq and Iran looking for mines.

When Swanson heads to Iraq, his job will be working with a radar system that helps troops pinpoint where explosions and mortar attacks are coming from.

"It's the same, but different," Swanson said of their jobs. Both involve locating explosives.

Day by day

Staggs said that when Swanson gets to Iraq, he can count on being around a lot of troops who don't want to be there.

"Morale over there is probably gonna suck," Staggs said.

The most important thing is to turn a deaf ear to the soldiers who complain about being there, Staggs said.

"Take it one day at a time," he said. "Don't count down the days."

Lots of showers

Swanson isn't sure whether he will be deployed to Fallujah or Ramadi next month.

But one thing he can be sure of is that he will land in Iraq at the start of the hottest period of the year.

Staggs said that in the 130-degree heat of Iraq, Swanson can count on sweating, a lot.

"You'll find a lot of stinky people over there," Staggs said.

Every chance Swanson gets to take a shower, Staggs said he should jump at it.

Drinking plenty of water is crucial and Swanson's CamelBak (the backpack that carries his water) will become one of his most important pieces of equipment, Staggs said.

Turn the other cheek

In Bahrain, Staggs said, it wasn't uncommon for local citizens to dislike the American presence and heckle soldiers.

When Swanson is in Iraq, he can expect similar treatment, Staggs said.

The best thing soldiers can do is let the heckling roll off their backs, he said.

"I just bite my tongue and turn around and walk away," Staggs said.

Plus, the language barrier makes dealing with locals a challenge, he said.

Swanson's fiancee, Chrissy Rubillo, said she bought him some Arabic language tapes to help him overcome the language barrier.

Swanson said he has been trying not to think too much this week about going to Iraq.

But he says he isn't overly nervous about his seven-month deployment.

"I'm sure I'll see some interesting things over there," he said.

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