Bill Currie into action, he knows not where

Bill Currie will be leaving his wife and a 17-month-old son Saturday as he goes to serve with his Army National Guard unit overseas. DAMIAN MULINIX photo

Editor's note: This is the first in a series profiling local servicemen who have been called into action during this time of global uncertainty.

ILWACO - Two days after his 26th birthday, Bill Currie got the call he'd been expecting.

Currie, an inactive reservist in the Army National Guard, was told that he would be joining his unit on March 15 for training at Fort Lewis and then deployed somewhere overseas. He said not knowing where is the worst part of the situation he is now facing.

"I haven't heard," said Currie. "Initially, we thought maybe Turkey. But, you know, Turkey's not letting us in. That pretty much leaves Kuwait, North Korea, Afghanistan. I probably won't know until we actually get off the plane."

Currie was an active reserve in the Guard for six years, joining just after high school. He became an inactive reserve after the birth of his son, William Currie V, 17 months ago. In February he found out the rest of his unit was activated for service and he re-enlisted in active duty. Currie said he did this because he knew he would be recalled, but if he wasn't re-enlisted with his unit, he could get stuck with a new crew that he had never worked with.

"I could be picked up by anyone," he said. "I know the people ... their weaknesses, their strengths. I wanted to go with the guys I knew."

He said part of it was also a sense of patriotism and duty as well.

Currie is a specialist or corporal, E4. This is one rank lower then sergeant, E5. He also has one of the more dangerous jobs in the military.

"I didn't pick the best job either," he said with a laugh.

He is a combat engineer, doing a lot of mine field work.

"Sweeping mine fields, checking them out."

But he said he has a lot of confidence in himself pertaining to that job, having trained for it the past six years.

Currie comes from a long line of service men in his family. His father was in the Marine Corps for 24 years, serving two tours of duty during the Vietnam War.

"He's not real happy," Currie said of his father's feelings about him being sent overseas.

"He didn't want me to go into the military to begin with. I think he's just really worried."

Bill is an only child.

"He's having a hard time with it," said Currie. "I think my mom is too, but she's not showing it as much."

Currie said that almost every male on his father's side of the family have at some point served in the military.

As for his own feelings, Currie said being made to leave his wife, Genni, and their son for upwards of a year's time will be the hardest part.

"That's going to be tough," said Currie. "It's going to be hard being gone from my family for that long. I'll miss our anniversary, his second birthday. My son will be talking when I get back."

He said that the decision to serve has been one that weighs on him.

"I am proud to go serve," he said, "at the same time there's a little bit of anxiety. I don't want to have to kill someone, I don't want to get shot at. I always said that I wanted to see the world, I just don't know if I wanted to see it this way."

And he didn't ever imagine that he would be faced with this type of situation when joining - the most action he ever saw as an active guardsman was fighting forest fires in eastern Oregon and flooding in Tillamook.

"When you think National Guard, you think Home Land Security. I did not really think that they'd send us overseas. But at the same time you know it's a possibility."

At this point, the biggest difference between an Army National Guardsman, like Currie, and a member of the U.S. Army, is training. In the Army, a soldier trains pretty much every day, where as the National Guard trains one weekend a month and two weeks a year.

"You have to try to get the same amount of training in as they get five days a week. It's a lot harder," said Currie.

He said he was told by a member of the Army once that he thought being a guardsman was harder because you have to deal with family, jobs and training all at once, where as a person in the Army is removed from everything except military matters.

"We try to cram everything into one weekend that they do in a month, which is really not possible. We do as much as we can."

Currie said that he expects that he and his unit will spend a month and half doing a "crash course" in training at Fort Lewis prior to leaving for their destination. This is a proposition that Currie knows will be tough.

"It's scary. I think you'd be a fool to say it's not," he said. "But it's just one of those where you have to overcome the fears."

One of the biggest fears he will be faced with is one he has lived with all his life, a fear of flying.

"I hate flying," said Currie. "I'll have to take a military flight over, that's worse then anything for me right now. That's the first step I have to get past."

As for the global climate right now, Currie has some mixed feelings as to what the U.S. should be doing.

"I think the war on terror is a good thing," he said. "As far as Saddam goes, I think he should have been taken out of power in 1990. I think it should have been done then and I think we wouldn't have the problem we have now. I wish they would just go in and get it over with quickly, not drag it out over months."

Currie said if it were to happen in that manner, he thinks the world view towards the action would change.

But is now the right time to be dealing with Saddam Hussein when other threats exist?

"My opinion, I think a few months ago, or a year ago this should have been done. But now that we're having problems with North Korea, I would almost wish that they would pull out of Iraq, deal with North Korea first. It seems like North Korea is a bigger threat than Iraq, to me."

As far as his view on public anti-war protests go, Currie said that he is a firm believer that everyone has a right to their own opinion, but hopes they would be protesting the conflict and not the people. He hopes he and other troops will be accepted here when they return.

"If they don't want to support what George W. Bush is doing, that's fine. But I really wish the people would support the troops," he said. "I think that was one of the big downfalls of Vietnam. People would come back and get spit on and treated like crap.

"I'm going because they're saying that I need to go. I have no problem with that, but I don't want to go over there and kill someone or get shot at. And I don't want to come back to the States where people will treat me like crap."

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