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November 10, 2008 4:10 am

Local woman leaving for second tour in Iraq

Written by Tribune Staff

Angela Kalb is a busy woman — the 33-year-old works a full-time job in night security at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center from 10 p.m.-6 a.m. and she also finds time to carry a full course load at Northwest College.

She said she sleeps between classes and tries to study at night. However, in January, she'll leave that demanding schedule behind — for something even more rigorous. Kalb will depart for her second, six-month tour in Iraq.

Kalb joined the U.S. Air Force shortly after her high-school graduation. She spend 11 years on active duty, beginning in Oklahoma, then moving on to Italy, Turkey and Germany. She took a six-month hiatus after her last tour, but she missed the military.

“They wouldn't take the old lady back on active duty, so I joined the (National) Guard,” she said.

She's in her second year of a six-year enlistment, and she said she wasn't surprised by her deployment.

According to Kalb, “the possibility of being deployed when there's a conflict is always pretty good.”

And, again, she said the thing she most looks forward to is coming back home.

“When I was in Germany in 2003, that was the first time I was deployed to Iraq,” she explained. “I was there for six months with Security Forces, the Air Force's name for military police. We did a little bit of everything. We did patrolling outside the wire. Our primary job was to secure and protect military personnel and equipment. We also processed detainees.”

She was stationed first in Bashur — in an open oil-field airstrip in the countryside. Later, she was transferred to Kirkuk Air Base in northern Iraq.

“It was freezing when we first got there (in Bashur),” she said. “Then it got to about 130 degrees in Kirkuk.”

According to Kalb, there isn't much people can do to combat the sweltering heat.

“You drink a lot of water, use sunscreen — you don't really have a choice,” she added. “You ride with the windows down in the Humvee and drive as fast as it goes, which isn't very fast.”

When she left for Iraq in 2003, Kalb said the scariest part for her was “just going into the unknown — not knowing what to expect. For me, I was in a leadership position, so making sure that the people you're responsible for come home in one piece ...”

Her other fear: “Camel spiders!”

She said her concerns this time around are the same as before, and she understands the threats U.S. forces face.

On her previous tour, she said troops saw combat situations almost daily.

“Oh yeah, we got shot at, especially in Kirkuk. In Bashur, it was more long-range missiles, not as continuous and direct a threat,” she said. “(In Kirkuk), we were in fire-fights almost daily. We were mortared probably daily. Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of ... fireworks.”

However, she said there are some good aspects to her service.

“I would say (I enjoy) the camaraderie you develop with the people you're with, and it was an interesting experience, being part of history, I suppose. And seeing a different culture. I had a lot of Middle-Eastern associations growing up, so the culture contrast wasn't so surprising. I was surprised by how westernized the

Iraqis are. All the children know Michael Jackson, George Bush and Pepsi — and they like all three,” she added.

She remained guarded about her views of the recent presidential election.

“As a military person, and a patriot of the U.S., I believe you should respect the position of the president. They're the commander in chief, and I think they're making the decisions that have America's — and the world's — best interests at heart. I think my greatest concern is that the Democrats often, historically, don't support the military as much. That scares me. Whether people are for or against the war in Iraq, I hope they continue to support the troops,” she said. “I hope they recognize that a lot of the money used to fund the war in Iraq doesn't go to buy (ammunition and arms), but it's to take care of and protect our people there.”

Kalb doesn't know where she'll be stationed when she arrives in Iraq, but she seemed ready for the challenge.

But the best part of the experience, she said, will be “leaving it. The plane ticket back home.”