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Soldiers with local ties involved in war

Aaron Eckerberg, Greg Earnest, and Armondo Espinoza

Captain Aaron Eckerberg, United States Marine Corps, has in the last few days

appeared and been interviewed several times on network news. Col. Oliver North, retired, together with commentators for Fox Network News conducted the interviews.

Captain Aaron Eckerberg grew up in Platte City and graduated from Platte County R-3 High School in 1991. He is the son of Dean Eckerberg and Ceil Witt. Captain Eckerberg is a Marine Corps helicopter pilot flying CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters. His squadron, The Red Dragon 268, was the first squadron to deliver troops to Iraq when the war began.

On March 19 Captain Eckerberg was interviewed with regard to his opinion on the attitude, abilities and equipment of the chemical and biological protections afforded to the leathernecks. Earlier, he was interviewed with regard to the particular advantages and the problems of night flying his aircraft.

At that time, Oliver North was apparently flying with him in the CH-46 helicopter which is a medium range helicopter.

On March 13, Cpt. Eckerberg had been on the network news shaking hands with North as North initially arrived at the squadron. Transcripts of the network news interviews may be found at www.foxnews.com.

According to some of the transcripts, this squadron of Marines were notified on Jan. 10, that they were to prepare for immediate embarkation and four days later the squadron's 12 CH-46 helicopters were packed and sealed.

On Feb. 11, the entire unit, officers enlisted alike, pitched in to build tents and fill sandbags, more than 20,000 in the first week alone and six hours after the helicopter arrived in port, they were ready for flight.

On March 21, the Red Dragon Squadron suffered a tragedy when a helicopter crashed killing the crew and a total of 12 Marines and British soldiers due to mechanical and or weather conditions. The network reported that marine military maintenance technicians were wearing gas masks so that they could work on aircraft in conditions that can only be described as "extreme."

Visibility is reduced to less than 30 yards with the sand blowing steadily at 25 to 30 knots. Particles of sand are inhaled with the marine's every breath and swallowed with every mouth full of food, jams weapons and seeps into jet engines.

Surveying the fury of the dust storm, one of the correspondents asked another Marine Corps. pilot in Captain Eckerberg's unit if the dust and dirt would affect the performance of his aircraft. The Marine replied, "Dust storms aren't allowed to affect us. It's contrary to Marine Corps policy."