Madison soldier leaves family, school for heat of Iraq

Tara Halbritter

Tara Halbritter

Part 2 of 4 in a series – A soldier shipping out- A soldier in Iraq- A soldier home from war- Support groups help

When a soldier is deployed, the emotions of the situation tend to hit home, especially when it’s a fellow student, a brother or a son.

On Sept. 13, SDSU student Paul Ebsen came home for a two-week leave after being on active duty in the South Dakota Army National Guard. Last December, the 153rd Engineering Battalion of Madison was sent to Fort Carson, Colo., to prepare for deployment. On Feb. 19, the group left for Iraq. Ebsen, who is originally from Madison, was in Iraq for nine months.

Before he left for Iraq, Ebsen was studying to become a mechanical engineer at SDSU.

“It will be a challenge trying to catch up on all that I’ve missed,” Ebsen said. He is hoping to come home permanently in February and begin classes in the summer or fall of 2005.

Ebsen serves as a combat engineer where his main mission is to look for roadside bombs, disarm them, isolate them and then fire them off safely. He said roadside bombs have caused several casualties in Iraq. When he is not on a mission, Ebsen is a tower guard.

Ebsen was staying at an old Iraqi airbase known as Camp Manhattan. Ebsen said some of the bases are similar to small towns, and some even have a movie theater.

In order to keep in touch with loved ones back home, everyone in the unit pitched in and they purchased a satellite phone with internet capabilities.

“I tried calling home on a weekly basis,” Ebsen said. “Iraq is nine hours ahead of central time, so it’s hard finding a good time to call.”

“We make our plans around the times that we think he’s going to call,” said his mother, Shirley Ebsen.

While Ebsen was in Iraq, he was still among friends. Many soldiers from the Madison area were sent to Iraq.

“This has really brought the community together,” Shirley Ebsen said.

Ebsen said soldiers from his battalion are randomly selected to go on leave. He said it’s like a drawing or lottery.

Ebsen said he misses working with his unit since he’s been gone.

“You get to know the people in your unit pretty well,” said Ebsen.

In addition to experiencing a change in culture, the soldiers in Iraq are experiencing a whole new type of weather.

“It’s really hot over there,” Ebsen said.

Temperatures have reached into the 140s in past months.

“It feels about 20 degrees hotter when we have to wear a helmet, body armor, ammunition and carry a weapon,” he said.

Ebsen’s family is especially grateful and excited that he is home for a two-week stay.

“We are very proud of him and we’re glad that he’s serving our country,” said his father, John Ebsen.

“I think he is handling his duties very well,” Shirley Ebsen said. Ebsen also has two sisters, Tina and Sara.

Ebsen said he is concerned about his upcoming departure on Sept. 29.

“The most difficult part of leaving is knowing you won’t see your family and friends for a long time,” Ebsen said. “I’ve heard it’s harder to leave the second time around.”

However, Ebsen knows that a second good-bye will mean a second return. And the next time he sees his family and friends, his tour of duty will end-and so will the good-byes.

#1.885947:2619139462.jpg:paulebsen.jpg:SDSU student Paul Ebsen is on duty in Iraq as a combat engineer.: