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Cover of Spring - Summer 2003 Issue

 

From Baghdad to Longwood

Frontline News from Major Tim Hale '89

Major Tim Hale '89 in Iraq
Major Tim Hale '89 in Iraq
For students, faculty, and staff of Longwood University "Operation Iraqi Freedom" had a personal voice. Through today's amazing web of technology, Longwood established a direct communication link with alum Tim Hale, Class of '89. Major Hale, who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq, supplied the Longwood web site, "News From The Front" with war information almost daily. His emails were not like CNN reports; they were everyday personal thoughts.

"In a way it was like having M*A*S*H on screen: his encounters, his frustrations, his fears, his jokes, etc., were real and so human," said Franklin Grant, Longwood's director of planned and major gifts in University Advancement, a longtime friend of Hale's.

The communication began February 25 when Major Hale sent Grant a friendly email about his war involvement. Hale, who had been scheduled for a reunion golf outing with Grant and three other Longwood alumni, Ricky Otey, '89, J. Paul Hurt, '89, and Shawn Marshall, '90, in Arizona, missed the outing because of his deployment to Kuwait. Though Major Hale was unable to swing a golf club, he was determined to stay in the golfing loop through Internet communication.

Major Hale began sending almost daily personal observations to Grant, who shared the messages with colleague Dennis Sercombe, director of public relations. "We agreed, this was too good to keep to ourselves," Sercombe stated. "I asked our president, Dr. Cormier, what she thought about putting this on our web site as a sort of War Journal. She said, 'do it.'"

A web site was then created by Dave Hooper, '00, Longwood's director of web communications. "Major Hale was supplying Franklin Grant with an incredible personal war perspective both verbally and visually, and it seemed unfair to the Longwood community not to make this accessible to all," said Hooper.

On February 26 Hale sent Grant the following excerpt from a report, which was posted on the web site: "Camp Virginia was awesome. The term great American is thrown around nonchalantly all the time, but let me tell you that I truly saw great Americans. What I saw at Camp Virginia was the greatest thing I've ever seen in my 21-year military career. Young kids, Americans, black, white, brown, all skin colors, male, and female - all working together for a common cause: getting ready to unleash the lethal force only the American defense infrastructure could provide. Not one of them showed any sense of fear. It was a concerted look of self-confidence and resolve. Just think about it ... Just a year ago, these kids were the annoying youngins in the car next to you, playing earsplitting hip-hop, that some NCO has molded into a disciplined team projecting America's might on the brink of molding history. It's incredible and took my breath away more than once."

From the Longwood web site, a reader learns that Major Hale graduated from Robinson High School in Fairfax in 1982. Since he liked to party more than study, Tim Hale joined the U.S. Navy instead of going to college and served for five years in the U.S. Naval Reserve. In 1985, he decided that college was better than three jobs and enrolled at Longwood. He instantly knew that he would join ROTC and compete for a ROTC Scholarship, which he was awarded his junior year. In one day Major Hale went from the Navy to the Army and was commissioned a 2nd LT in 1989 upon graduation from Longwood. Major Hale, his wife, Ruth and two children, Ryan, 9, and Rachel, 7, live in Orlando, Florida.

Currently assigned to the Program Executive Office for Simulations, Training and Instrumentation in Orlando, Major Hale was deployed for a 60-day temporary duty assignment at Camp Doha, Kuwait. As system manager, he fields the war-fighters with the weapon systems used to fight.

Iraqi girl waving at Major Hale and his crew
"... The kids continued to wave. They were all along the road, and some of them just simply pointed to their mouths. One of the folks in the back took this picture of this little girl - it's the best one we took all day, but characterizes all the kids."
Up until the day he left the Iraqi situation, Major Hale continued to send daily updates of his personal observations and images. In one of his last entries, Major Hale wrote of the children: "After the internment camp, we decided to visit Basrah, which the Brits control. We went through Um Qusar as well. Along the way, all the people were very friendly - waving at us and cheering us. What was heart wrenching were the children. They were living in absolute squalor ... I'm speculating here, but I would say the town of Basrah and Um Quasar holds oil reserves that would make it one of the top 10 natural resource centers in the entire world. The Shiites in the south bore the brunt of Hussein's oppression so while they had enough natural resources to make every man, woman, and child very wealthy, I saw child after child begging for water. This is water that they never had, not water that the media says we knocked out. Makes me sick when you hear them talk about the reconstruction of Iraq with the finger pointed squarely at the coalition, when in fact, we are fixing what the regime broke, not what we broke. These kids and their mothers get their water from streams and rivers.

"... The kids continued to wave. They were all along the road, and some of them just simply pointed to their mouths. One of the folks in the back took this picture of this little girl - it's the best one we took all day, but characterizes all the kids. Now I didn't engage the enemy directly during this war, but I would like to think that I helped kill the regime when I offered a smile and a wave to this little symbol of the future of Iraq. It made my heart sink because she was so happy and her eyes made you melt with a smile that was as wide and pretty as my own daughter's back home. Who knows, maybe she'll grow up to be the first female Iraqi president in 40-50 years. It's hard to say with the Islamic influence in the region exactly what her future holds, but I have to believe that it's much brighter than it was a month ago. I hope she remembers my smile as being genuine because I can't remember having one as genuine since my wife gave birth to my own children."

Major Hale's war diary, "News From The Front," can be accessed in its entirety through the Longwood University web site at www.longwood.edu/news/newsfromthefront.

Jennifer Wall
Media Specialist