Duty bound

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
After receiving a phone call in August, Scott Dyck knew where his life would take him for the next year and half-into the middle of the war in Iraq.

The 30-year-old Hillsboro man has joined fellow military personnel in a war that began in 2003.

Through last week, the war has claimed the lives of about 1,060 members of the U.S. military, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

“It’s hard to have a reaction,” Dyck said about the phone call to report for duty in the war zone.

“You can try to prepare for it all you want, but until you’re actually faced with it, you really don’t know what to think. And then, for a good month, I didn’t know anything other than I had been attached to another unit, and we were going to go to Iraq.”

As a sergeant in the Army National Guard, Dyck is with the (HHB) 35th Division Artillery in Hutchinson. He was to report to a unit in Olathe Oct. 12 to begin his 16-month tour of duty. From there, he will be sent to Fort Riley, then one month in Kuwait, followed by 12 months in Iraq before ending his tour with one month in Kuwait.

Setting a wedding date to marry fiancee Katey Ferguson, 24, of Philadelphia has been postponed until he returns.

Ferguson said the news of his deployment was difficult time for her.

“But he doesn’t worry for himself, and that helps me a lot,” she said. “I’m sure he’s got more fears going on then even I know about. But he is being very brave and being strong for those of us he’s leaving behind, so we can have faith here at home that he will be OK.”

Dyck was born in Salina to parents Stuart and Jeanne Dyck. He graduated from Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita in 1992. In 1996, he graduated from Tabor College with a degree in English.

His past employment includes working for his father, who owns Stuart Dyck Construction in Salina.

About one month before the infamous Sept. 11 attack, Dyck decided to enlist.

“It just came to my head one day, and I thought I would try it,” he said. “It seemed like a good challenge to do something different. But part of the motivation was that I think everyone should do something. And there’s the fact that we live in the greatest country in the world.”

His 10 weeks of basic training began in October 2001, at Fort Jackson, S.C. Immediately following, he went to advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Ga.

“So I went to military college for MOS, which is ‘military occupational specialty,'” Dyck said. “That’s just basically learning the job you’re going to do. I’m a radio operator.”

Dyck has been considered on active duty for more than half the time since enlisting.

In August 2002, he started training for a tour of duty in Bosnia that began the following January with one month in German.

“We did theater-specific training prior to going to Bosnia,” Dyck said. “I was in Bosnia for six months. It was just basic peace-keeping duties.”

He also was required to carry an M-16 at all times.

“Everyone there carried their weapon at all times-to eat, to go to the gym, it didn’t matter what,” Dyck said. “It’s still considered a combat zone, but there’s no fighting going on there right now.”

While in Bosnia and on a six-day pass in Budapest, he met Ferguson, who was working on her master’s degree in Budapest.

“It was a very strange way to meet, but it was pretty cool,” Dyck said.

He arrived home in September 2003, and in August of this year, he received the news he was being deployed to Iraq.

About 40 percent of U.S. military in Iraq are National Guard and reserve, Dyck said.

“There are a lot of people who think the National Guard is not really soldiers-we’re kind of part-time weekend warriors, who aren’t as competent as regular active-duty soldiers,” he said.

“But we have to maintain our skills by going two days a month and two weeks in the summer every year. I have complete confidence in the people that work beside me.”

Dyck believes being consumed with fear and worrying about personal safety is counter productive to doing his job well.

“There’s comfort that comes from the fact that you know you have good people working beside you,” he said. “My apprehension about going is having to leave Katey. Planning to get married and all the things we were planning to do prior to that have all been put on hold. Now, I’m going to do the best I can and come home.”

Military security issues prohibit Dyck from discussing his mission or his perspective about the war.

“I have my opinion, obviously,” he said. “I don’t feel like they’re trying to confuse or misinform anyone. But if you have any doubt about saying something, it’s best not to say anything at all.”

He does have expectations about life during his tour of duty-about time off, food, and where he will be living.

“I would love to come home and see Katey and everyone,” Dyck said. “But at the same time, it would make it so much harder to go back.”

He will probably be living in semi-permanent housing.

“It’s not tents, but it’s not like a regular barracks,” Dyck said. “Most of the housing, as far as I know, is fairly fortified or sand-bagged up for frequent mortar attacks.”

If there is no dining facility where he’s staying, the majority of his food will probably be army rations. But Ferguson said she had an alternate plan for her fiance’s food while in Iraq.

“As soon as my mother heard that, she swung into action,” Ferguson said. “Now, there’s a list of about a dozen people planning on making food to send to Scott, so he doesn’t have to eat (Meals Ready to Eat) every day.”

As in Bosnia, he expects to carry an M-16. But is he prepared to take a life?

“That’s one of those things I don’t think you know until it happens,” Dyck said. “I hope I never have to. I hope I never pull the trigger, ever. My goal is to never, ever even have to point my weapon. But in the situation, you rely on your training to take over.”

Dyck will arrive in Iraq during two historically important periods of time-between the presidential election in the United States and an Iraq election scheduled for January.

“It’s going to be a pretty interesting time as to what happens there in the future,” he said. “Nobody knows how that’s all going to turn out-whether it’s going to ratchet things up or down.”

Dyck said he expects to come back more enlightened. He wants to learn more about the Arab culture and take correspondence courses online while in Iraq.

When he returns, he and Katey will make wedding plans and start their married life together in Philadelphia. He may complete his student-teaching requirements so he can teach English and coach.

He’s enlisted in the National Guard until 2009. Before leaving for Iraq, he did not plan on a military career when finished with his enlistment.

“But things have a way of changing,” Dyck said. “In all branches of the military, if you are in the middle of a contract, if the world situation dictates that they need you to stay in, you’ve got to stay. But at this time, I’m not planning on making a career of the military.”

Dyck said he would have followed his current path, even if he knew where it would lead.

“I’ve learned things I never would have had the opportunity to learn,” he said. “I’ve been places I would never have gone to and done things. And I would never have met Katey if I hadn’t been in Bosnia.”

Dyck said his Christian faith gives him peace as he prepares to face each day in a foreign country ravaged by bombs and death.

“In the end, what you do is not motivated by any higher moral calling, or because you believe so much in the cause that you’re fighting for, as much as it is fighting for each other,” Dyck said.

“And I do have a sense of duty. I love America. That’s part of the reason why I’m doing this.”

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