TAJI, Iraq - Sgt. Frank DuBeck (right), 2nd Battalion, 104th Cavalry Squadron, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, accepts an arm wrestling challenge from the son of a local Iraqi Sheik. The Harrisburg, Pa. native discovered that diplomacy comes in all shapes and sizes.

BAGHDAD - The Secretary of the Army declared 2009 to be the "Year of the NCO." The non commissioned officer is often said to be backbone of the U.S. Army. While officers have the responsibility to plan the mission and objectives, it is the sergeant that has the responsibility to execute that mission and see to its success. It is obvious that these duties include leading men into combat, but the NCO's list of titles also include counselor, coach, and, as of late, diplomat.

When people think of diplomacy, they automatically think of efforts to create peace and friendship between two nations on the large scale. However, diplomacy is also being handled on a much smaller scale by NCO's; one on one, everyday with Iraqis.

During a lunch meeting with Sheik Nadeem, a local Iraqi leader, Sgt. Frank DuBeck, from Harrisburg, Pa., was awarded a unique opportunity to wear his diplomatic hat.

"I was outside standing guard when one of my guys came up to me and said the Sheik's oldest son wanted to wrestle me," DuBeck said. "At first I was confused. Why does this guy want to wrestle'"

As the DuBeck entered Sheik's home, he realized what was really in store.

"Everyone was gathered in a circle around a little table. Then I realized they were talking about arm wrestling," DuBeck, a weight-lifting aficionado said. " I thought, this looks like a big dude, but the squadron commander said it's okay to win, so I thought, man, I better win!"

The two men shook hands and kneeled down at the table. A crowd of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi's grouped around the competitors, cheering and laughing as the match began. Both athletes used all of their effort, but in the end it was DuBeck who came out on top.

In the end, there were no hard feelings, only respect for one another. The two men stood up, shook hands and executed the sacred "bro-hug", a one arm shoulder hug. Even though the diplomatic efforts of the day were based on competition, a friendly atmosphere was maintained.

"It was cool; everyone was happy and joking around. The Iraqi's even congratulated me." DuBeck said proudly.

The true story here is not about a competition between two men, but rather a testament to the mutual respect being forged between the men of 2nd Battalion, 104th Cavalry Squadron and the Iraqi people. In the end, it's Soldiers, like Sgt. DuBeck, who work everyday to make Iraq a safer place; anyway they can.

Page last updated Fri March 13th, 2009 at 14:23